Fifteen years ago this month, Red Bull purchased the MetroStars from the Anschutz Entertainment Group. On Tuesday, we reposted the original breaking story. Today, we will go through the next eight days on how the sale came to fruition, with some reaction from officials and games. They were written by FrontRowSoccer.com editor Michael Lewis, who had a similar position with BigAppleSoccer.com in 2006.

March 4, 2006

THE BECKENBAUER CONNECTION: Former Cosmos plays a key role with Red Bull, which is closing in purchasing the Metros

By Michael Lewis

Former Cosmos superstar midfielder and German soccer legend Franz Beckenbauer has played a role in Red Bull’s pursuit of purchasing the MetroStars, BigAppleSoccer.com has learned.

Sources said on Friday that the sale of the team could happen as early as next week if details and negotiations are completed.

Red Bull, the producers of a carbonated energy drink, is seriously pursuing buying the MLS club from Anschutz Entertainment Group and is considering changing the name of the team, according to league sources,

Beckenbauer, a close friend of Red Bull billionaire owner Dietrich Mateschitz who was born outside Munich, Germany, has been an adviser to the Austrian native, according to published reports.

Beckenbauer, head of Germany’s World Cup Organizing Committee, apparently spoke to AEG officials while he visited New York last week — on Thursday, Feb. 23 — during his 31-country tour of qualified World Cup countries, league sources said. Beckenbauer played with the Cosmos from 1977-80 and during the 1983 North American Soccer League season.

It was not known what exactly was discussed.

While speaking to a crowd of U.S. soccer officials, fans and media at Gotham Hall a week ago Thursday, Beckenbauer did not leave any clues of his involvement.

Beckenbauer was an advisor to Mateschitz after the Austrian native purchased SV Wüstenrot Salzburg in 2005 and turned the club into Red Bull Salzburg.

The transction turned many fans on the club when Red Bull re-branded the Austrian First Division club and wiped out the previous 72 years of history.

Mateschitz could not be reached for comment.

According to a statement released by Red Bull USA in Santa Monica, Calif., the company did not deny it wants to buy the Metros.

“Unfortunately, we can’t comment on speculation or rumors,” director of communications Patrice Radden said. “We have not announced any plans to purchase any team in the U.S.”

For the most part, officials in MLS and the Metros circled the wagons and were tight-lipped about the probable purchase.

For the second consecutive day, Metros club president and general manager Alexi Lalas did not return phone calls.

Team spokesman Eric Tosi wouldn’t comment, directing all inquiries to AEG. AEG, vice president of communications Michael Roth, however, did not return a phone call to BigAppleSoccer.com.

BigAppleSoccer.com tried to contact MLS commissioner Don Garber for the second day, and for the second day in a row, Garber was unable to comment.

“We’ve had numerous inquiries about the MetroStars during the last few years,” a statement from the league read. “Ultimately those inquiries are handled by AEG as they own the team. It’s a sign that the value of Major League Soccer and Soccer United Marketing continues to escalate. All discussions regarding ownership are confidential since MLS and AEG are privately held organizations.

 

March 5, 2006

SEEING RED (BULL): Fans have pro and (many) con reactions to the possible sale of the Metros

By Michael Lewis

Not surprisingly, the reaction to the possible sale of the MetroStars by Anschutz Entertainment Group to Red Bull ran the gamut from pro to con.

It was difficult to ascertain the exact percentage of how many supporters were against the re-branding, but many fans were upset that Red Bull, the Austrian-owned energy drink, was close to acquiring the Metros and considering a new name and even wiping out its 10 years of history, not unlike what it did with SV Wüstenrot Salzburg (now Red Bull Salzburg) of the Austrian First Division last year.

By late Sunday night, message boards of MetroFanatic.com and BigSoccer.com had generated 875 comments and 22,459 views combined on the story that BigAppleSoccer.com and the New York Daily News broke.

What is in this story is just a smattering of opinion over the issue.

Dan Ryazansky, the man who operates MetroFanatic.com, wasn’t very happy with the possibility of name and history change.

“Although Red Bull’s purchase could be beneficial to the franchise in the long run, and an owner dedicated to running a successful club to which it can give its full attention would be welcome, what is alarming is the possible re-branding and wiping out of the Metro name and history,” he said in a statement for this website Sunday night. “Throughout the past 10 years, the MetroStars organization has changed in every single way, except in one: it is still the MetroStars.

“Erasing that and getting rid of the link to past is a slap in the face of those loyal supporters who have stuck with the team for all these years; they have stuck with the team despite its lack of success, only to have it taken away. The loyal Metro fans are a dwindling number; this move will not wipe them out entirely, but you will see even the most devoted, long-term supporters being turned away from the club.”

Another poster, who goes by the screen name of getyourdad, said he would never support a team with a corporation name.

“For me, if the team is purchased and re-branded with as Red Bull FC or Red Bull NY or whatever, it will cease being the same club,” he wrote on MetroFanatic.com. “I know that I could never bring myself to support a team named Red Bull, because I will feel like I am supporting a corporation, not a team or club.

“I am aware that my argument has its flaws. But what it comes down to is, my reaction is an emotional, visceral reaction, not an intellectual one. I know that if Red Bull purchases the team and includes Red Bull in the team name, I will stop supporting the team. Emotion, pure and simple, but my support of Metro is based on emotion, not reason.”

Yet another fan, who goes by the name of mikevallo, agreed.

“If Red Bull takes over the team and changes the name and or the colors you will never see me at another game ever again,” he wrote.

In an open letter to MLS commissioner Don Garber on BigSoccer.com, a poster named Irishapple21 wrote:

“I urge you on behalf of MetroStars fans everywhere — and on behalf of my fellow season ticket holders — to prevent AEG from undermining the public credibility of Major League Soccer by permitting Red Bull to change the name to anything involving ‘Red Bull’ when they purchase the right to become the MetroStars’ investor/operators. We may be a small league, but we should be a proud league. We shouldn’t allow a company’s conceit to undermine the league’s dignity and true potential for growth in the American public’s consciousness.”

William Smith, a long-time Metros fan, however, wrote that he wouldn’t be sad if the Metros name became history.

“At the risk of being tarred and feathered, I am okay with a re-branding,” Smith wrote on MetroFanatic. “I am a season ticket holder from Day One. I have spent countless hours watching uninspired soccer in a cavernous stadium in small crowds. Everything we have ever tried failed (and don’t tell me about Bob’s Wonder Boys who never made it past the first round of the playoffs). If the Cosmos killed the NASL by being too successful, Metro has almost killed MLS by being abject failures. I hope they name the team Red Bull Cosmos and piss everyone off. Besides, MetroStars is a stupid name and always has been.

“If Red Bull pumps money into the team (and) . . . we start winning playing exciting soccer, I don’t care what they name the team. They can name it ‘Aris Rules NY’ for all I care. Sorry to upset the other longtime fans, but here’s a fact: The Metrostars, as much as we love them, are failures and it may just be time to move on.”

 

March 7, 2006

GETTING CLOSER: Red Bull to pay at least $30 million to AEG to buy Metros and more for stadium naming rights

By Michael Lewis

There were strong indications Monday night that Red Bull’s desire to purchase the MetroStars was close to becoming a reality, BigAppleSoccer.com has learned.

A high-ranking representative from Anschutz Entertainment Group, the team’s owner, was scheduled to fly in from Los Angeles Tuesday to meet with the Metros front office staff and explain what is going on, according to sources close to the team. AEG would not send an official cross country to meet the front office, unless something important was about to happen, sources said.

A deal could be finalized as soon as the end of this week, if several more details are ironed out, according to league-wide sources.

Red Bull has agreed to pay at least $30 million to AEG to buy the Metros, sources said.

The deal could reach $50 million or more if the Austrian manufacturer of the sports energy drink also includes naming rights to the Harrison, N.J. stadium, sources said. The stadium is scheduled to open late next year or early 2008.

There was speculation that the total deal could go as high as $100 million, but that figure could not be verified.

Regardless, it would be the highest purchase price for a team in MLS history and raise the ante for other teams to join the league. Global Development Partners, a Northern Virginia real estate firm, had agreed to purchase D.C. United for a reported and estimated $26 million before the deal collapsed in January.

“It’s a financial windfall for the league and AEG,” one source said.

Added another source: “This is one of the most significant deals in MLS history.”

Red Bull also is ready to re-brand and rename the team. The company already owns one soccer team — Red Bull Salzburg in the Austrian First Division, which Red Bull had purchased April 6, 2005 when the club was called SV Wüstenrot Salzburg.

The new owners re-branded the team — changing the team’s name, management and staff, saying that it was a new soccer team with no history, even though the club had been around since 1933. Not surprisingly, the change upset many fans of the club, but their five-month fight to keep the old name was unsuccessful.

Red Bull also changed the team’s colors from violet and white to red and white.

There is less than a month for Red Bull to change the team’s name, colors and uniform in time for the Metros’ season-opener at D.C. United April 2.

One source close to the team thought it would be next to impossible to do all that in time. “We’ve already gotten our new uniforms,” he said. “The question is whether all of this can be done in a month.”

Former Cosmos star Franz Beckenbauer, head of the 2006 German World Cup Organizing Committee, also has played a key role in the negotiations, sources said.

It was not known exactly what role he would have, though sources speculated that Beckenbauer could wind up with equity and have a say in running of the club.

Beckenbauer, president of Bayern Munich, lives in Kitzbühel, Austria, just over the German border, and is good friends with and an advisor to Red Bull owner and Austrian billionaire Dietrich Mateschitz.

“He’s not just a broker or a friend in this deal,” a source said.

AEG would keep ownership of the stadium, but Red Bull would receive a sweetheart deal on rent because of the naming rights, sources said.

“They’re paying enough money for the naming rights and the team,” one source said.

This could be a win-win situation for the league and Metros, who have grossly underachieved during MLS’s first 10 years. The Metros have never won or reached MLS Cup.

They have qualified for the playoffs on seven occasions, but have gotten out of the first round in one piece only once. They were bounced by the New England Revolution in the opening round last year.

Even though it is in the largest market in the country, the Metros finished a dismal and disappointing sixth out of 12 teams in attendance, averaging only 15,077 per game, slightly below the league average of 15,108 under team president and general manager Alexi Lalas.

But that could change under Red Bull, which has plenty of money to spend, especially on promoting the club in the biggest and most important market in the United States.

“Red Bull has a history of spending money,” a source said. “They do high profile, aggressive marketing promotion through their brand. This is what this market needs.”

If the deal goes through, several familiar names could wind up playing key roles with the team.

According to sources, Beckenbauer met with former Cosmos teammates Giorgio Chinaglia, Werner Roth and Shep Messing during his worldwide tour of World Cup finalists in New York City two weeks ago, saying that he wanted them to be involved with the restructured club.

Red Bull plans to re-brand the team, starting with a name change, sources said.

“If everything we have heard is true, it would be exciting and good for the league in general and the tri-state area in particular,” said Messing, color announcer on the Metros’ MSG telecasts. “As far as potential involvement, I will worry about that bridge when the time comes.”

In the past, AEG officials have said that they would love to bring a second team to Harrison, sources said, not unlike what the Los Angeles Galaxy and Chivas has done at the Home Depot Center in Carson, Calif. AEG owns the Galaxy, while Chivas is Mexican owned.

AEG most likely would own rights to a second team, including the name MetroStars, according to sources.

Officials in the Metros, AEG and MLS have been tight-lipped about talking to the media about this deal. The club’s communications department referred all inquiries to AEG public relations.

“AEG’s corporate policy is not to comment about speculation,” AEG spokesman Michael Roth said by telephone from Los Angeles.

If the deal goes through, Red Bull would be the Metros’ third team owner in their 11-year history. MetroMedia’s John Kluge and Stuart Subotnick owned the team from 1996-2001. AEG, whose empire includes ownership of five of the league’s 12 franchises, has owned the club since Nov. 21, 2001.

AEG also owns the Los Angeles Galaxy, Chicago Fire, D.C. United and the Houston Dynamo, formerly the Earthquakes, which was renamed from Houston 1836 Monday.

 

DERBY WEEK, PART II: Say it ain’t so, Mo: Johnston, playing for Celtic, jumps from the frying pan and into the fire with Rangers

Mo Johnston: “It’s like everything else. There has been speculation out there. Have they been talking about it? Certainly. They’re smart kids. They’ve read about it on the internet and talked about it with players from other teams.” (Andy Mead/YCJ Photo)

 

March 8, 2006

THE LAST PICTURE SHOW?: Metros, as team sale looms, fall to Fire, 3-0

In what could have been the final game with the team wearing the red and black uniforms, the MetroStars suffered a 3-0 pre-season loss to the Chicago Fire in Carson, Calif. on Wednesday.

Forward Calen Carr struck twice and defender-midfielder Leonard Griffin added a goal at The Home Depot Center.

“I’m not worried about the result,” MetroStars coach Mo Johnston said by cell phone from southern California. “It’s been a long pre-season.”

“If I was worried, I’d be sitting in my hotel room. I’m in the mall shopping.”

It is expected the league on Thursday will announce that Anschutz Entertainment Group will sell the Metros to Red Bull, an Austrian energy drinker company.

Asked if the sale talk had affected the team’s performance, Johnston replied with a chuckle: “No. It’s like everything else. There has been speculation out there. Have they been talking about it? Certainly. They’re smart kids. They’ve read about it on the internet and talked about it with players from other teams.”

Johnston chose not to play several players, including forward Youri Djorkaeff, who had “a little calf injury,” the coach said.

“He got a kick,” he added. “I’m just trying to protect him. . . . No need to play him.”

Three other players did not play — goalkeeper Tony Meola — Jon Conway played the full 90 — and defenders Carlos Mendes and Jeff Parke. Mike Magee and Seth Stammler, who both had broken toes, did play in the match.

Magee started and was replaced by Thiago Martins at the start of the second half while Stammler, another starter, was subbed by Marvell Wynne at an undetermined juncture of the game.

Defender Peter Canero and midfielder Adrian Serioux, who had left the team to obtain a visa and play in an international friendly, respectively, were back in the lineup.

The Metros return home to New Jersey to practice at Giants Stadium before participating in the Carolina Cup in Charleston, S.C. from March 20-27.

“The guys deserve time off now,” Johnston said. “Then we move on to Charleston.”

Johnston said he is still looking for a forward who can put the ball into the back of the net on a regular basis.

“We’ve been trying,” he said. “Alexi (Lalas, the team president and general manager) has been trying every day.

“We’re still a few players short. If we don’t get the right players in (by the April 2 season opener), we move on. We’re optimistic.”

Johnston said he was encouraged by pre-season so far — up to a point.

“I’m fairly happy with what we have,” he said of the roster he is building.

But . . .

“I’m never satisfied,” he said, “because you’re always hoping for your team to do better.”

Carr, the Fire’s first-round pick in the MLS SuperDraft, scored his fourth and fifth goals of the pre-season while helping Chicago improve its record to 5-1-4.

Carr scored in the 17th and 50th minutes and Griffin connected in the 59th minute.

“Over the course of 90 minutes, I thought this was our best effort as a team so far this spring,” Fire coach Dave Sarachan said in a statement. “We really made it hard for the MetroStars to keep the ball and were more efficient and better with the ball ourselves.

“The way we were able to finish some of our chances was impressive as well, and we could have had a couple more. There’s still a good deal of improving to do, but this was a great way to start things off here in Los Angeles.”

 

March 8, 2006

A RED BULL MARKET: MLS board of governors expected to OK sale of Metros by AEG to Red Bull on Wednesday

 

By Michael Lewis

The MetroStars could be history as early as today.

In their place would be the New York Red Bulls.

The MLS board of governors has scheduled a Wednesday meeting during which a vote is expected to be held to approve the purchase of the Metros by Red Bull, the Austrian energy drink manufacturer, from the Anschutz Entertainment Group, according to league-wide sources.

Soccer America also reported similar information in its MLS Confidential newsletter Tuesday night.

“It is a done deal,” according to a league source familiar with the situation.

As of Tuesday night, the league hadn’t decided on whether it will make an official announcement of the sale this week or next, sources said.

According to league sources, the team will be known as the New York Red Bulls, have a logo similar to that of Red Bull Salzburg and sport red home uniforms and white away uniforms.

The team also will be re-branded — before its season kicks off at D.C. United April 2. The Metros’ 10-year history is expected to be will be history — wiped out – sources said, as happened to SV Wüstenrot Salzburg when it was transformed into Red Bull Salzburg after the energy drink company bought the Austrian First Division club April 6, 2005.

The new Red Bulls logo will be similar to the one used by Red Bull Salzburg, except that New York will replace Salzburg. The logo, which accompanies this story, has the name Red Bull (in red) on top of the logo, with two red bulls charging toward a soccer ball in the middle. The city’s name, Salzburg, is at the bottom in blue.

Members of the Metros front office were told by an AEG representative on Tuesday to replace all instances of MetroStars with Red Bull, according to a source with knowledge of the meeting.

Another source said that Red Bull plans to replace many members of the front office, although that information could not be verified.

There apparently had been a hold on anything MetroStars at the league level – media guides, promotional materials until the sale went through.

That included items outside of the league. For example, soccer stores that sell Metros replica jerseys have been told that they won’t be coming in the foreseeable future.

“I’ve been told, ‘Don’t plan on anything MetroStars anytime soon,’ ” Iain McNee said Tuesday night.

“I imagine that adidas will get something off their team line for this season,” added McNee, the owner of The Onion Bag in North Bergen, N.J. and www.OnionBag.com.

McNee said that if a name change was announced it would take three to four weeks for a new uniform to come out. He said that Red Bulls replica jerseys probably would be available the second week of the season.

Red Bull has agreed to pay at least $30 million to AEG to buy the Metros. The deal could reach $50 million or more if it also includes naming rights to the Harrison, N.J. stadium, sources said. The stadium is scheduled to open late next year or early 2008.

Regardless, it would be the highest purchase price for a team in MLS history and raise the ante for other companies or potential owners who want to buy into the league.

Moreover, it also means that AEG finally will jettison one of the five teams that it owns. AEG also owns D.C. United, which is on the block after a sale to a Northern Virginia real estate developer fell through in January, current MLS Cup champion Los Angeles Galaxy, Chicago Fire and the newly named Houston Dynamo.

Reached by telephone in Los Angeles Tuesday night, AEG spokesman Michael Roth again downplayed the sale.

“It is still speculation,” he said. “We haven’t announced anything. It’s speculation, a rumor.”

Former Cosmos star midfielder Franz Beckenbauer, the head of the German local organizing committee for the World Cup, also has played a key role in the negotiations, sources said. It was not known exactly what role he would have, though sources speculated that Beckenbauer could wind up with equity and have a say in running of the club.

Beckenbauer, president of Bayern Munich, lives in Kitzbühel, Austria, just over the German border, and is good friends with and an advisor to Red Bull owner and Austrian billionaire Dietrich Mateschitz.

Reached via e-mail, Beckenbauer’s assistant, Marcus Höfl, wrote that the man known as Der Kaiser plans to come to New York in April.

As of Tuesday night, the Metros planned to host the New England Revolution in their 11th home opener April 8.

By Wednesday night, that game could be billed as the Red Bulls’ inaugural home match at Giants Stadium that Saturday.

THE DON OF SOCCER: Garber to be inducted into Soccer Hall in October

Don Garber: “The addition of Red Bull into our group of owners is a landmark moment for Major League Soccer and for all Tri-State area soccer fans.” (Michael Lewis/FrontRowSoccer.com Photo)

March 9, 2006

IT’S OFFICIAL: Red Bull purchases the MetroStars

It’s official.

As originally reported by BigAppleSoccer.com last week, the MetroStars are now the New York Red Bulls.

Red Bull Company Limited, the Austrian company that produces the world’s leading energy drink, Thursday finalized an agreement to purchase the Metros and partner with AEG on the construction of the team’s soccer-specific stadium in Harrison, N.J.

The team will be re-branded as “Red Bull New York”, including a new logo, uniforms and team colors to take effect immediately.

Red Bull’s agreement with AEG, the team’s former investor-operator, was approved by the MLS Board of Governors yesterday, and includes the two companies joining together to invest in the custom-built stadium for the team in Harrison.

As part of the agreement, Red Bull also purchased naming rights to the soccer-specific stadium. Red Bull will have a 50 percent ownership stake in the facility, and AEG will remain responsible for constructing, managing and booking the venue.

The deal is in the neighborhood of $100 million — the exact figure cannot be ascertained because some of Red Bull’s stakes in the deal cannot be exactly pinned down at this time.

“The addition of Red Bull into our group of owners is a landmark moment for Major League Soccer and for all Tri-State area soccer fans,” MLS commissioner Don Garber said in a statement. “Red Bull founder Dietrich Mateschitz brings international credibility and proven, innovative marketing expertise to Major League Soccer. His presence on the MLS Board of Governors provides another authentic, avid soccer fan to our diversifying set of investors.”

Red Bull New York’s team emblem, unveiled on www.newyorkredbulls.com, features two bulls charging toward a soccer ball.

Red Bull CEO Dietrich Mateschitz said in a statement, “18 million Americans actively play soccer in the U.S.A. Up to 60 million are soccer fans. We were so fascinated by these figures that we made the decision to join and support this development by taking over the responsibility for the MetroStars. Our goal is to further strengthen the team and position the New York Red Bulls as the soccer metropolis of the East Coast, as well as to join the investment for a new tailor-made soccer stadium – the “Red Bull Arena”- which will serve as the new home for the New York Red Bulls.”

Close collaboration between Red Bull Salzburg and the Red Bull New York is planned. Synergies in athletic areas as well as in management and marketing will be tapped. Projected plans include talent scouting, mutual training camps and friendly matches as well as joint marketing, merchandising and public relations activities.

According to a Red Bull press release, Alexi Lalas is the team’s president and general manager.

The team opens its 2006 campaign Sunday, April 2 against D.C. United at RFK Stadium (5 p.m. ET). The team’s home opener at Giants Stadium is Saturday, April 8 against the New England Revolution (7:30 p.m.). The New York Red Bulls uniforms will be unveiled soon.

Red Bull’s eastern regional offices are located in Hoboken, N.J. Red Bull has increased its investment in professional sports, including NASCAR, extreme sports and Formula One auto racing.

It also has transformed Red Bull Salzburg into one of Austria’s leading first division clubs by signing impact players and using innovative marketing.

CHASING GIORGIO: After reaching 30 goals, Martinez can target some other modern-era scoring (Chinaglia) records, milestones

If he ran the Red Bulls in 2006, former Cosmos great Giorgio Chinaglia said he would have made massive changes. (Andy Mead/YCJ Photo)

March 9, 2006

LANDMARK DEAL: Metros sale to Red Bull done, expected to be announced on Thursday

 

By Michael Lewis

It’s done.

The landmark deal in which the Anschutz Entertainment Group would sell the MetroStars to Austrian energy drink giant Red Bull was close to being finalized Wednesday.

The deal would include Red Bull naming rights to the Harrison, N.J. stadium, could run in the neighborhood of $100 million after some other costs are factored in, which would be the highest team price tag in league history, according to league-wide sources.

On Tuesday, the Metros front office was instructed to get rid of all things associated with the Metros name, according to sources close to the team.

“The deal is done,” another source said Wednesday afternoon.

The MLS board of governors approved the sale at its meeting Wednesday, according to league sources.

The league, however, is expected to issue an official statement sometime Thursday, according to an MLS spokesman.

It was not known whether anyone in the current Metros front office will be safe from the Red Bull axe, but there were indications the new owners planned to make sweeping changes, sources said.

While it has been widely reported that Red Bull will erase the Metros’ 10-year history and start from scratch, like it did when it took over SV Wüstenrot last year but an MLS source speaking with anonymity said he was not sure if that was going to happen.

Former Cosmos star striker Giorgio Chinaglia spoke with his ex-teammate Franz Beckenbauer at a World Cup dinner in Manhattan Feb. 23. Beckenbauer, head of the 2006 WC Organizing Committee, asked Chinaglia to be a part of the team’s new management, although the ex-Cosmos admitted he had no idea on what his role would be.

“I said fine, no problem,” Chinaglia said.

Beckenbauer, the only person to coach and captain a team to a world championship, is good friends with and an advisor to Red Bull owner and Austrian billionaire Dietrich Mateschitz. Beckenbauer, also president of Bayern Munich, lives in Kitzbühel, Austria, just over the German border.

He probably is a long shot to operate the team on a daily basis because of his commitments to the World Cup through July 10. He also is considering making a bid for the UEFA presidency against former French international midfielder and coach Michel Platini.

Asked what he would do if he was in charge, Chinaglia replied, “Get rid of everybody. You’re going to bring in new blood, new ideas and new coaches. Players who can win games.”

Chinaglia said such sweeping changes could be done quickly.

“Why not?” he asked. “This isn’t Serie A or the (English) Premiership, you know.”

Reached in Carson, Calif. where his team dropped a 3-0 pre-season decision to Chicago, coach Mo Johnston said he wasn’t concerned about the sale.

“It’s something you can’t prevent,” he said. “I’m not worried about it.”

Asked if the sale talk had affected the team’s performance, Johnston replied with a chuckle: “No. It’s like everything else. There has been speculation out there. Have they been talking about it? Certainly. They’re smart kids. They’ve read about it on the internet and talked about it with players from other teams.”

 

IF THE U.S. MISSES OUT: Lalas: ‘It would be a huge body blow’

Alexi Lalas: “They don’t like to do things half-ass,” Lalas said. “This is a bold statement, a bold more from an innovative brand. We’re going to make some noise.” (Kyle Terada/USA TODAY Sports)

March 10, 2006

START OF THE BULL RUN: MetroStars are out, Red Bulls are in as sports energy drink company invests $100M

By Michael Lewis

The local soccer scene turned into a bull market on Thursday. If you want to get technical, it was actually a Red Bull market.

In other words, say goodbye to the old MetroStars and say hello to the new New York Red Bulls in the wake of the MLS board of governors approving the sale from Anschutz Entertainment Group to Red Bull Company Limited, the Austrian producers of the energy drink.

The landmark, package deal is worth $100 million, which was confirmed by reliable MLS sources. It will encompass purchasing the team, buying naming rights to the Harrison, N.J. stadium — it will be called Red Bull Arena — set for a spring, 2008 opening — and partner with AEG on the construction, owning half of the $92 million soccer-specific stadium.

About $30 million will go toward buying the Metros, a record amount paid for an MLS team. Ken Horowitz paid a reported $25 million for the expansion Miami Fusion, whose MLS run lasted from 1998-2001. Since then, he Real Salt Lake and Chivas USA expansion teams paid $10 million each to join the league in 2005.

Global Development Partners, a Northern Virginia real estate firm, had agreed to purchase D.C. United for a reported and estimated $26 million before the deal fell through Jan. 17.

The deal made Red Bull the third largest MLS investor behind Phil Anschutz and Lamar Hunt, according to commissioner Don Garber.

“This is going to give the New York market more of a global exposure that we had in the past,” Garber said via phone from Las Vegas, site of U.S. Soccer’s annual general meeting this week. “Red Bull New York has the vision as Alexi (Lalas, team president and general manager) has talked about — a New York-based super club.”

Garber said Red Bull “realized we can get back to having a team that is globally renowned. That’s not going to be the Cosmos. . . . We’re going to work hard to get back some of the appeal and popularity that existed with this team when it was founded.”

Garber said that he didn’t expect to start bringing in foreign investors. He admitted that winning the old fans back and attracting new ones wouldn’t be difficult.

“It’s going to take time,” he said. “I think we’ve got to work hard to talk to the hardcore MetroStars fans and convince them its’s good for them, it’s good for the team. They’re the ones who love the game.

“We’ve got to get them to come to see how good a New York soccer team can be.”

Red Bull CEO Dietrich Mateschitz said that he was impressed with a reported 18 million Americans play the sport and that up to 60 million have been soccer fans.

“We were so fascinated by these figures that we made the decision to join and support this development by taking over the responsibility for the MetroStars,” he said in a statement. “Our goal is to further strengthen the team and position the New York Red Bulls as the soccer metropolis of the East Coast.”

The seeds of the deal were planted when MLS-sponsor adidas told 2006 World Cup Organizing Committee head Franz Beckenbauer about its 10-year, $150 million commitment to the league, Garber said.

The shoe company is a major sponsor of the World Cup. Beckenbauer, good friends and an advisor to Mateschitz, talked to Garber and MLS COO Mark Abbott at two meetings in Salzburg, Austria. Red Bull contact AEG and spoke about an expansion team before the company set its sights on the Metros.

The league retained the rights for putting a team in New York City in 2010, Garber said.

Unlike SV Wüstenrot Salzburg, which had its history wiped away when Red Bull acquired the Austrian First Division club last year, Garber stressed the Metros’ 10-year history would not be erased.

“It will be kept,” he said. “We are changing the name of the team. We’re not trying to rewrite the past.”

For the club, it was business as usual — with the prospect of a big marketing boost for the future. Lalas will remain as president and general manager and Mo Johnston as coach, despite reports to the contrary that Red Bull was ready to clean house.

“They don’t like to do things half-ass,” Lalas said. “This is a bold statement, a bold more from an innovative brand. We’re going to make some noise.”

Lalas, however, wouldn’t be specific.

“I would ask to have an open mind. We’re going to blow your mind. Our fans are going to see things they have never seen.

“Just stay tuned. We have a lot planned.”

There had been speculation that one of Beckenbauer’s former teammates, ex-Cosmos forward Giorgio Chinaglia, would have a role in some capacity with the club. In an interview with two separate newspapers earlier in the week, Chinaglia said he would replace everyone on the team, if he was in charge.

To which Lalas retorted: “Giorgio seems to think we should fire the front office, coach and players. With all due respect, Giorgio can kiss my ass.”

Johnston, who has been rebuilding the team in his image since taking over for Bob Bradley, flew home from Metros’ pre-season camp on a red-eye Wednesday night to meet with Red Bull officials Thursday afternoon.

“I’m very excited,” Johnston said. “It’s a wonderful opportunity.”

For team captain and forward Youri Djorkaeff, changing owners, team names and colors was a first.

“To be honest, it was very strange for me because in Europe we don’t have something like that,” he said via telephone from Carson before he and his teammates returned home Thursday night. “But we are in America and something like this happens at times.”

Asked about wearing new colors, Djorkaeff replied, “It doesn’t matter the colors, just a bring a new shirt, a winning shirt.”

COMING TO AMERICA: Repost: The final stop of Youri’s soccer journey

Youri Djorkaeff on the sale: “To be honest, it is very strange for me because in Europe, we don’t have something like that.”

March 10, 2006

“IT IS VERY STRANGE TO ME:” Djorkaeff talks about changes, Red Bull sale

By Michael Lewis

When it comes to American sports, Youri Djorkaeff is the first to admit he is no expert.

So, when he discovered that the MetroStars had new owners, a new names and new colors, the 1998 French World Cup champion said all that change was, well, foreign to him.

“To be honest, it is very strange for me because in Europe, we don’t have something like that,” he said by telephone from Carson, Calif. Wednesday.

Djorkaeff, the Metros captain last season, should know about how various soccer clubs operate across the Atlantic. He has played for eight clubs in Europe, including Grenoble, Strasbourg, Monaco, Paris St-Germain in France, Inter Milan in Italy, Kaiserslautern in Germany and Bolton and Blackburn in England.

“It never happened to me like this, where a new owner comes in. I think it is very rare. . . . But we are in America. Sometime like this happens at times.”

Ever the optimist, Djorkaeff hopes the new ownership will raise the level of the team.

“I hope they bring some ideas of soccer,” he said, “and try to move the team to a different step.”

The old Metros jerseys were red and black at home and white on the road. The Red Bulls will have a red home shirt and a white one away.

“It doesn’t matter the color,” he said. “Just bring a new shirt, a winning shirt.

“It could be yellow, black or white, anything, but a winning shirt.”

When the team discovered the ownership and other changes, Djorkaeff said the players wondered if Mo Johnston would return as coach.

“They wanted to know about what was happening with the coach and trainer,” he said. “We have to know which way we want the team to go. It is very important.”

Djorkaeff celebrated his 38th birthday away from his family Thursday.

He said he planned to go out with some friends for a drink in New York City after he returned home.

 

March 10, 2006

“IT IS AN INSULT:” NJSEA head Zoffinger claims New York in Red Bulls shows lack of respect for New Jersey

All you have to do is mix Major League Soccer with New Jersey Sports & Exposition Authority president and CEO George Zoffinger and you get some controversy.

For years, Zoffinger has butt heads with the league and the MetroStars over a number of issues.

So, it shouldn’t be surprising that Zoffinger said he was insulted by the new owners of the MLS team that plays at his stadium named it the New York Red Bulls. He felt it should be called New Jersey.

In a statement released by his office Thursday, Zoffinger said that “we are not happy with their announcement that their new name is Red Bull New York. Their home stadium is a New Jersey landmark, and it is an insult to us for them to remove the name of the state. We strongly object to this lack of respect for the State of New Jersey. I have reached out to the team and Major League Soccer and told them of our displeasure.”

Zoffinger said in the statement that he had spoken to his local and state representatives and the governor’s office. He noted that a stadium for the team — which will be named Red Bull Arena — will be built for the team (it is tentatively scheduled to be opened in time for the start of the 2008 MLS season.

“How should the taxpayers of Hudson County feel when they learn that the team will not have the name ‘New Jersey’ on their uniform?” he asked.

“I am certain that between the team, the league and the NJSEA. We will be able to reach an accord where all parties are pleased. I am committed to reaching that accord as soon as possible.”

In his statement, Zoffinger said that the NJSEA had “enjoyed a good working relationship with the MetroStars for 10 years. I look forward to working with the ‘new’ team and helping them achieve greater success at the Meadowlands.”

You have to take that last statement with a grain of salt because Zoffinger, the league and the Metros have been embroiled in a number of controversies and disagreements throughout the years.

Clearly, he has no problem with the National Football League teams Jets and Giants, who both use the ‘New York’ moniker.