With Chivas USA set to host the New York Red Bulls for the first and only time this season Sunday afternoon, it is time to get the lowdown on what's happening on the opposite coast. A very hearty thank you to Matt Coyne of the quintessential New York Red Bulls blog, aptly titled Once A Metro, for taking the answer our questions. Read on for some fantastic stuff!
1. After showing Hans Backe the door last season, the general impression was the team was looking for a big name at head coach. I personally loved the hiring of Mike Petke. I am also a big fan of Robin Fraser, who was of course the Chivas USA coach for the last two seasons. The season's winding down and currently the Red Bulls are right there in thick of things - what's your opinion of the coaching and how well they have performed this year?
Over here, we were thrilled with the hires. Mike Petke is the team's all-time leader in minutes and yellow cards. Robin Fraser has actually played in MLS. John Wolyniec, the team's reserves coach, was known as the Staten Island Ronaldo.
As for performance, they've been great. Hans Backe never seemed to motivate the team. They'd come out flat and only after giving up a goal or two would they really play. Backe never quite liked subs, either, and squad rotation was rare, and when it did happen, the decisions were strange.
So Petke was a breath of fresh air. The team speaks highly of his passion for the team and it's evident in his post-game pressers; when they lose, you can tell he's hurting. He's imbued the team with the grit he himself played with, giving the team a never-say-die identity the team was lacking.
But not everything has been great. His subs are formulaic (Oh, look, it's the 60th minute, here comes Lloyd Sam) and he seems hesitant to make changes when things get stale.
All in all, it's been a good debut season for Petke. After all, he is a rookie head coach, so there are going to be kinks, but under the tutelage of Andy Roxburgh he should be able to work them out.
2. The West coast has been pretty harsh to the Red Bulls where they've gotten a single point in three games (Portland, San Jose and, strictly not a coastal state, Colorado). Granted, the first two of those matches were at the beginning of the season, any reason why the road and, in particular the west coast, has posed so many problems for the Red Bulls?
Portland and San Jose were the first two weeks of the season and, for some reason, the team decided to fly back from Portland only to hop on another cross-country flight back to San Jose a few days later. Then, Roy Miller happened. Then, there were some delays on getting out there.
As for Colorado, the Red Bulls losing on July 4 to the Rapids is as American as fireworks and apple pie.
Excuses aside -- and they're barely legitimate ones -- all three were winnable games. The Red Bulls were an awful road team under Backe and they still haven't fixed things under Petke, coast aside. Petke has vowed to make some changes ahead of Sunday's game, but we'll see if it's enough to right the ship away from Red Bull Arena.
3. Sounds likes Jamison Olave will not be making the trip. We hope he has a quick recovery because he's played really well. With the turnover in the off-season, there's been a lot of new faces in the lineup. If you were to pick a "Newcomer of the Year Award" for a player (or for a couple players), who would you choose and why?
It's got to be Olave. Jonny Steele has played very, very well, too, and he earns an honorable mention, but Olave has been a rock on the back line.
Up until the signing of Ibrahim Sekagya, the Red Bulls were thin at the back and, frankly, if Olave wasn't there, they weren't winning. Markus Holgersson does a lot of good things at centerback, but when his lack of athleticism lets him down, Olave was there to clean up the mess. Plus, he's shown some offensive flair.
Now we enter the bonus round (sorry couldn't help myself) What's the attitude in Harrison regarding NYCFC? I'm sure there are a lot of opinions but are Red Bulls fans thinking this in an unwelcome incursion by MLS, or is this sort of chip on the your shoulder that can only improve your squad, i.e. "Great. Bring it on"?
It all depends on who you ask. Some are jealous, for others, it's reaffirmed their infatuation with the Red Bulls, I've seen some who are questioning their allegiance. But overall, I think it's a mild disdain.
People are naturally disposed to dislike a cross-town rival, but Red Bulls fans don't seem as worried as you'd expect. Yeah, there was some initial hand-wringing, but the more that comes out on NYCFC, the more of a let down it seems.
Be it the divisive ownership, the prospect of playing soccer in a baseball stadium -- a novelty that just can't be tenable for an entire MLS season -- or the fact that they really haven't made that big a splash, I think fans are more apt to laugh at NYCFC than loathe them.
To be honest, NYCFC was supposed to be the smelling salts that wake up New Yorkers to their supposed innate love of soccer, but I just haven't seen the infatuation. Instead, NYCFC seems like it's going to have to try and force the more provincial New Yorkers to love them. Somehow. Honestly, I think the Cosmos have made a bigger splash, and they're playing in the NASL.
What do you think? Leave a comment below!