It was a terrible offseason for the New York Red Bulls, with the retirement of Thierry Henry, the hiring of Jesse Marsch as coach and the revamping of the roster. But the team has performed well both on the field and at the box office, and fan support is back.
Change is hard, and change came hard to many Red Bulls fans this offseason, as team ownership revamped the Red Bulls from top (a new sporting director, Ali Curtis, joined Marsch in overhauling the roster) to bottom (Henry, a true superstar, was replaced by the likes of the more team-oriented Sacha Kljestan). There certainly were protests this offseason, per The New York Times:
Things became so bad that a town-hall meeting with fans about 10 days after the coaching change is remembered mostly for insults screamed by supporters at Curtis and Marsch. One group of fans paid for a highway billboard near Red Bull Arena demanding that the team’s Austrian owners sell the club, but Curtis and Marsch were undeterred….
A protest planned for the home opener did not fully materialize, however, and given the team’s strong start — three wins and two draws in five games — it may be hard to justify the angst directed at team leadership. Management opponents also face what seems like an uphill battle. The #RedBullOut page on Facebook had 127 followers as of Saturday; the official Red Bulls account had more than 664,000.
The result: a strong start of three wins and three draws in six games, including a draw yesterday with defending MLS champ Los Angeles Galaxy. The 1-1 draw was played before 20,062 at Red Bull Arena, a more-than-respectable showing both on the pitch and in the stands. The team set a record for season-ticket sales — surpassing 10,000 — despite the introduction of New York City FC in the market to much ballyhoo and publicity.
Image courtesy New York Red Bulls.