FrontRowSoccer.com continues to look back at Red Bulls’ acquisition of the MetroStars 15 years ago this month. This is a column writer by FrontRowSoccer.com editor Michael Lewis, which was posted at BigAppleSoccer.com March 12, 2006.
By Michael Lewis
It certainly isn’t easy to measure the intensity of buzz.
Some 10 years ago there was a ton of it swirling around the air when Major League Soccer launched in San Jose, Calif., where the then San Jose Clash (then the San Jose Earthquakes, then Houston 1836, now the Houston Dynamo) clashed with D.C. United on April 6, 1996.
Two weeks later, the buzz reached Giants Stadium.
Some 46,826 curious souls — still one of the highest stand-alone crowds in franchise history — came out to The Swamp to watch this new team called the MetroStars. To say they knocked anyone’s socks off would be exaggerating it just a wee bit. The home team lost to the Revs, 1-0, in the final 11 seconds — on a bizarre own goal by Nicola Caricola — which many superstitious fans, observers and even some media members claim — has haunted the franchise since.
The buzz, unfortunately, did not last more than the first six games. Attendance dropped for many reasons, including the most important reason — it was an awful team, something the league and club has been paying for dearly the past decade.
Fast forward 10 years. An incredible amount of buzz has been generated in the past 10 days in the wake of the sale and transformation of the Metros into the Red Bulls. All you have to do is take a look at the posts, comments and views at BigSoccer.com or MetroFanatic.com.
The publicity from the sale even has seeped out of the soccer universe.
Heck, for the first time, I believe, an MLS team was mentioned during Weekend Update on Saturday Night Live the other night (the joke was that commentator Amy Poehler mentioned the MetroStars-Red Bulls sale very quickly — the MetroStars would change their name to the MetroStars — as though she had taken the energy drink Red Bull).
Come April 8, 2006 — it will be intriguing to see how many curious souls there will be this time to watch the Red Bulls at the same stadium against the same Revs. Well, not exactly the same team on the field. Let’s see, the Revs have been to a pair of MLS Cup finals. But an optimist might say that’s only two more than the Metros, err, Red Bulls, err, whatever.
Moreover, beyond the game, it will be up to the Red Bulls to keep whatever momentum that has been generated from the team’s sale. Will this buzz have legs? Or perhaps more appropriately, thanks to the new Red Bull owners, will it have wings?
That’s the biggest challenge of it all.
With Franz Beckenbauer as an advisor to the Red Bull billionaire owner, you wonder if he could influence one European superstar or two to come over and join the team someday (David Beckham, maybe?). No, don’t worry, my gut feeling is that Lothar Matthaeus is not on anyone’s short list as a future coach. I don’t think Franz and Lothar get along too well, and fans just might block his entry into the stadium if it ever came down to hiring the man with the controversial mouth.
In the wake of Doug Hamilton’s tragic and stunning death on Thursday, you have to wonder if Alexi Lalas will continue as Red Bulls team president and general manager. He has been Anschutz Entertainment Group’s golden boy the past several years, being named GM of the San Jose Earthquakes in 2004 and replacing Nick Sakiewicz on the Metros last year.
Southern California and Lalas would be a perfect fit. After all, he played with the Galaxy from 2001-2003 and was a member of its 2002 MLS Cup team. But AEG has to plug up some holes and do it quickly. Hamilton, I’ve been told, also had been taking care of business with the Dynamo. So it wouldn’t be surprising if AEG brought back Lalas into its cocoon soon (most likely after Hamilton’s funeral).
And if the Red Bull owners want to bring in their own man to run the show, it would be a perfect way for Lalas and the club to move on without burning or nuking too many bridges.
Even before Hamilton’s death there had been speculation floating around that Lalas could return to the Galaxy as GM.
A few other thoughts after a wild, wild, wild and memorable week:
As for New Jersey Sports & Exposition Authority CEO and president George Zoffinger getting huffy and puffy over the name of the team, well, I just love irony and I hope you do, too.
Zoffinger, in the best tradition of politicians getting bent out of shape to make a lot of noise and grab headlines, complained about a team named New York playing at his precious stadium. He also claimed that the sports authority and Metros had a great relationship over the past decade (I love it when people try to rewrite history for their own greedy means).
George, before you start throwing pebbles, rocks, stones or boulders make sure your extremely fragile glass house is in order.
The NJSEA sent out a press release to many in the news media quoting Zoffinger’s remarks.
Unfortunately, it never found its way to my e-mail or fax machine.
Fortunately, a colleague of mine at another media concern, forwarded me the e-mail and outrageous statements, and I managed to post a story on the website.
Not sending it out to a major New York media source — the New York Daily News has the largest area-based circulation of any New York newspaper — to get his message out wasn’t too bright (editor’s note: it was later discovered that the NJSEA also forgot to send the information to the New York Times as well).
But hey. I can understand why yours truly was neglected. I have been covering soccer events at the Meadowlands for only 17 years, many for the Daily News. So I understand it may take just a little while to discover my e-mail or fax number.
And while on the subject, how come George and company haven’t gotten their noses bent over the Jets and Giants using the surnames New York and having NY on their helmets? Is it because they’re staying at the Meadowlands paying you rent and the Red Bulls are leaving for another facility in two years?
It always comes down to money, doesn’t it?
And you’ve got to love Jersey politics.
This is from the state that gave us former Gov. Richard Codey, who complained the national anthem wasn’t played before the England-Colombia international friend — aka the David Beckham match — last May. Codey obviously did not know that only anthems from participating teams are played at international matches. Don’t you love it when our so-called “emperors” still keep walking around without any clothes?
Of course, no one complained about the absence of an American national anthem when the 1994 World Cup had games at the stadium.
Oh, I forgot. Those games were pumping some big-time money into the state and area.
And this from a state whose sometimes outlandish politics has given us how many governors in the past five years? Four? Five? A dozen? Sorry, I’ve lost count (Psst! — the correct answer as of today is five, but it could change; you never know).
Aren’t there some more important issues for the politicos to tackle than this one?
As for the name transition, it will be difficult for some of us who have been programmed to write about our favorite MLS team in Jersey (see George, I got it right) over the past 11 years. I hope to keep the mistakes about the Metros, err, I mean Red Bulls, down to a minimum.
We are updating our site and hopefully, the Metros logo will be replaced by the Red Bulls insignia sometime soon.
There is even a transition process beyond the Metros, err, I mean the Bulls. While doing some errands on Friday, I heard a radio commercial to get free tickets for the Metros — yes, the Metros — home opener against New England on April 8.
Those commercials obviously will have to be updated or replaced.
It’s been quite a week in American soccer on so many fronts. This sure sets the table for what could be an intriguing year at The Swamp.