By Michael Lewis
It was hardly a Bull run.
A month after AEG sold the MetroStars to Red Bull energy drink and a quick name change, the area’s favorite MLS team in 2006 made its debut at rival D.C. United on April 2.
It might have been a name new and brad for the club, but the result carried on the team’s disappointing history, playing to a 2-2 draw at RFK Stadium.
Worse, the team lost a two-goal lead to its archrivals, but if you were an optimist, the team did manage a road point while denying D.C. a deuce.
“We’re pleased but disappointed,” head coach Mo Johnston said. “We can get better.”
The game wasn’t very encouraging as the defense struggled, and the team seemed to run out of energy in the second half. The Red Bulls also were unlucky. Facundo Erpen’s 65th-minute equalizer was headed straight to goalkeeper Tony Meola but was deflected by Jeff Parke into the near left corner.
“You feel so far away from the ball,” Meola said. “What are you going to do?”
Youri Djorkaeff scored the first goal in Red Bulls history as he powered a 35-yard free kick into the net past goalkeeper Troy Perkins in the 15th minute.
When asked why he thought he could attempt such a kick, Djorkaeff replied with a laugh: “Because I’m Youri Djorkaeff.”
He ran toward the 800 visiting fans who were given a free ride and tickets by the team to celebrate. I’m proud to be the first scorer and I dedicate this goal to the fans,” Djorkaeff said.
In the return match at Giants Stadium in East Rutherford, N.J. almost three weeks later on April 22, the result was quite different.
In fact, United rubbed it in.
After he scored the first goal for the visitors in its 4-1 thumping of the Bulls, Alecko Eskandarian took a swig of the Red Bull energy drink during his goal celebration and spit it out.
He was just having some fun.
Afterwards, though, Eskandarian was apologetic.
“They are our rivals and I apologize if I offended anyone,” he said. “It was just a joke amongst the team.”
But in many ways, his little act was a metaphor for the Red Bulls’ uninspired performance, which left a bad taste in the mouths among many of the announced crowd of 8,475 who braved the cold and rain that Saturday afternoon.
The Bulls entered the encounter one distracted team, their pregame preparation side-tracked over speculation about whether Johnston would be fired. For the first time in their history, the Red Bulls found themselves winless in their first four games (0-1-3) while United improved to 3-0-1.
“It was difficult to prepare yourself,” Meola said. “But you would have thought the one thing we would have brought was a lot of effort to that kind of battle. They beat us in every facet of the game. They out-worked us, they out-thought us. They outplayed us.”
The Red Bulls continued to pile up non-wins, many of them draws, and the axe eventually fell on Johnston in June during the World Cup.