By Michael Lewis
Three out of four certainly ain’t bad for Joy Rubenstein.
In fact, it was down right incredible.
In 2006, she attended four Red Bulls home games this season and has seen three — that’s right — three players record hat-tricks.
* She watched Jean-Philippe Peguero find the back of the net three times in a wild, 5-4 triumph over Chivas USA May 20.
* She witnessed Edson Buddle come off the bench at the start of the second half and fire in three more goals in a 6-0 victory over Real Salt Lake Aug. 26.
* And on Oct. 14, she saw Amado Guevara connect for his third MLS hat-trick in a 3-2 win over the Kansas City Wizards, which clinched an Eastern Conference playoff berth for the Red Bulls.
The only aberration was a 1-0 win over the Chicago Fire Sept. 30 — when 16-year-old Jozy Altidore scored — in a vital victory en route to clinching a playoff berth.
“I can’t say I’m their good luck charm,” Rubenstein said at the time “I think Bruce [Arena, the coach] has something to do with it. I think Bruce has a lot to do with it.
“As long as I keep going and they do well, why jinx it?”
Witnessing one hat-trick is rare enough. Watching three in only four games, well the odds of doing that is astronomical.
“I love it,” Rubenstein said. “I think it makes it fun to watch the game. I hope it brings people out to see them. It’s good to see the team improving and it was good to see Amado’s hat-trick.”
So, the Red Bulls took on D.C. United in the Eastern Conference semifinals, hosting their rivals in the first leg of a home-and-home series at Giants Stadium on Oct. 21.
“If they [the Red Bulls] want me there, I’ll be there,” she said.
Rubenstein sat in an unoccupied TV booth in the press box in her four appearances.
During that time, I asked the readers of BigAppleSoccer.com to give their verdict as to whether they think should have been in the press box.
It was a landslide.
Here’s a sampling of the remarks we received from the readers:
Brian Donaghy of New Jersey:
“After reading the article on bringing Joy to the games, my response is OF COURSE! After carefully examining the contents of the article, I have built a couple conclusions about this phenomenon. The first is one that you would be happy to hear: She is indeed a good luck charm! Eleven goals by the Red Bulls in the two games she attended?!? We only have scored 25 goals in the other 27 games played! Come on! She needs to be there for a goal fest and some victories!!!
“The second conclusion is not one that you may want to hear, yet could be the case: Joy is simply the apple of Jean Philippe Peguero and Edson Buddle’s eye. They have seen her and intend to impress her by going for the hat-trick! While this might not seem like a good idea to you, Michael, you are going to have to suck it up and take one for the team buddy. We need the wins to make the playoffs and thousands of fans may be relying on your girlfriend here. JPP and Buddle both scored HALF of their goals this season when Joy was at the game! Just more solid evidence behind this conclusion.
“Finally, if for no other reason, Joy has to be at the game for an attendance boost. The Red Bulls attendance has been the worst this season in club history when you take away the festivities and hype surrounding opening day and as well as the double header. Attendance in MLS’ most prolific market is in the bottom half of MLS this season and that includes both the double header and opening day! If the team loses by a handful of goals and three Red Bull players are sent off with a red card, at least another butt was in the seats for the club and that could be a plus for the organization!
“So, Michael, you absolutely MUST bring Joy to the final two games! If I were you, I’d be asking Bruce Arena to get her onto the bench in place of a reserve just so her luck is closer to the field . . . or so that when Edson Buddle scores his MLS record sixth goal, he won’t (have) to look around to give her a wink.”
Tim Foisie of Westport, Conn. called Rubenstein “a living good luck charm.”
“Please bring Joy Rubenstein to the final two New York Red Bulls’ regular season games!,” he wrote. “She’s definitely a living good luck charm. The team needs all the help it can get to exorcise Giants Stadium demons.
“The New York Red Bulls don’t need hat-tricks however, just wins. The team needs to save some goals for the home playoff match. By the way, Joy needs to come to that game as well!”
Cathy Pipcho of Clark’s Summit, Pa. wrote about the “Superstition in the Swamp.”
“Is there any place for superstition in the waning moments for the fight for a playoff berth? Surely you jest!” she wrote. “Is this even a question? Anyone that has followed this team has questioned if there is indeed a curse over the Meadowlands. The Red Bull roster is filled with remarkable talent yet something seems to intervene between the points and the win column. Will Joy expel the curse and propel the team to the playoffs?
“I’ll tell you what hasn’t worked from this fan this season:
“Wearing the 2005 Playoff Unity bracelet.”
Unfortunately, the Red Bulls said no and guess what happened? They dropped a 1-0 decision before playing United to a 1-1 tie at RFK Stadium on Oct. 29, 2006, getting shown the playoff exit once again.
And we all know what has continued to plague the team — playoff failure and frustration. The Red Bulls, who reached and lost the 2008 MLS Cup, have qualified for the postseason 10 consecutive seasons since 2010 (who knows what’s going to happen this year?), but have become the Chicago Cubs/Boston Red Sox of American professional soccer without a league or Lamar Hunt Open Cup crown.
By the way, the Red Bulls have tallied six hat-tricks since then, five by an Englishman with the initials BWP. Thierry Henry connecting in a 5-2 shellacking of the Montreal Impact on April Fool’s Eve (March 31) in 2012.
Bradley Wright-Phillips had a hat-trick of hat-tricks in 2014 — in a 4-0 win over the Houston Dynamo on April 23, in a 5-4 loss to the Chicago Fire on May 11, 2014 and a 4-1 triumph over the Seattle Sounders on Sept. 21, 2014. He added two more – in a 3-0 victory over Toronto FC on May 28, 2016 and in a 3-3 draw with D.C. United on Sept. 16, 2018.
Now, I would not be so bold to compare the hat-trick run to the curse of Nicola Caricola (if you are a MetroStars/Red Bulls fan, and are not familiar with it, well shame on you).
If you ever wondered what happened to Joy, well, she became my wife in 2007. She became a soccer fan and photographer. We have had some interesting conversations about the sport in general and the Red Bulls in particular. And she knows her stuff. When ESPN announcer Alexi Lalas mentioned that when former Red Bulls David Roth, who played in the Lionel Messi and Friends exhibition match in Chicago in 2013, Henry probably did not say a word to him when they were teammates on the Red Bulls. She quickly noted that they were never teammates, that Roth was cut in 2009. Henry joined the team in July 2010. Not too shabby, not too shabby at all.