New York Red Bulls
Officially known as Red Bull New York, the short history of the club has not been one of the most glorious in the MLS. Although a long stream of experienced players and coaches have come and gone, the team has yet to taste victory in any of the major competitions. However, with a loyal base of passionate supporters, and a new stadium on the way, things could finally be looking up for the club.
The New York Red Bulls started up in 1996, when they were known as the Empire Soccer Club. Soon after this, they became the New York/New Jersey MetroStars, more commonly known as NY/NJ.
Eddie Firmani was introduced as the first coach at the club, and a whole batch of past internationals and well-known names were brought in to make up the bulk of the team. This included such names as Tim Rabos, Tony Meola and Roberto Donadoni, who had previously played for AC Milan. With the team up and running, expectations were high.
However, eight games into the season they had lost five games and won three, leading Firmani to call it a day. He was soon succeeded by Carlos Quieroz, the former coach of Portugal, who it was hoped would bring in some much-needed experience.
Although he did make a better impression than Firmani, he still only managed to finish the season with 12 wins and 12 losses. This proved enough to get them through to the playoffs, but they were beaten in the end by D.C. United, who would eventually go on to become champions. On a more positive note, they also made it through to the semi-finals of the Open Cup, but suffered more disappointment when they went out to Dallas Burn 2-1.
After Carlos Quieroz came Carlos Alberto Parreira, the 1994 World Cup-winning coach with Brazil. But NY/NJ was not Brazil, and the season was a complete disaster both in the league and the Open Cup, leading to a swift departure at the end.
During the year, he did manage to bring in one of his World Cup-winning squad members, Cláudio Ibrahim Vaz Leal (better known as Branco), in the hope that the player could relive some of his former glory. However, apart from his astonishing free kicks, he added relatively little to the team.
Following on from Perreira, Alfonso Mondelo was the new man with the daunting task of making something out of the team. However, he immediately slumped to three losses out of three games, and it was all looking very familiar.
He did manage to turn things around slightly, but after an awful six-game losing streak at the end of the season, it was decided that he was not the saviour the club was looking for, and he too departed.
If they were hoping that a new coach would give a new lease of life to the continually failing team, they were wrong. In 1999, Bora Milutinovic became Mondelo’s replacement, and managed to provide the team with their worst season ever. Throughout the whole year, they could only manage seven wins, during which time they also set a new and unwanted team record of 12 continuous losses. Octavio Zambrano was the man to finally put Milutinovic out of his misery by replacing him for the 2000 season.
A saviour arrives
In 2000, Milutinovic caused a stir by bringing in the Bayern Munich player Lothar Matthäus. With some real world-class talent on the team, things could surely only get better. However, Matthäus suffered from an early injury and was unable to play until later in the season, when he was generally considered to be a disappointment.
Instead, it was Clint Mathis who became the hero that the MetroStars were looking for. On August 5th, he caused a sensation by scoring five goals in a 6-4 win over FC Dallas. Mathis’ role was significant in helping the team to first place in the EC (Eastern Conference) for the first time.
However, in the resulting playoffs, Chicago Fire got the upper hand to send them crashing out in the semi-finals. They also made it to the Open Cup semi-finals for the third time in four years, only to be disappointed by Miami Fusion 3-2.
Having come close in two competitions the previous season, Milutinovic was honoured by becoming the first coach to begin two seasons in a row.
Mathis was still on fire, scoring seven goals in his first six games, which helped them to win six of their first eight matches. However, the team began to rely on him too heavily, and when he was injured in June, things started to turn around. All this led to a second place position in the EC, but they could not progress beyond the first round of the playoffs, when they were beaten by LA Galaxy.
It was during this year that the club also underwent a change of ownership, being sold to AEG (Anschutz Entertainment Group).
A chance at success
After a poor 2002 season, Bob Bradley took over at the end of the year. He immediately shook things up, particularly in midfield, bringing in some new talent to strengthen this problem area. However, the team suffered a heavy loss when their star goalkeeper, Tim Howard, left for Manchester United.
Even with this loss, they managed to get their best result ever in the US Open Cup, beating Columbus Crew, New England Revolution, and D.C. United to reach the final for the first time. However, with the prospect of their first trophy a distinct reality, a lone goal by Chicago Fire’s Damani Ralph ended their dream.
In 2004, the club suffered a heavy loss with the departure of Clint Mathis to the German club Hannover 96. As a result, Bradley brought in three strikers to fill his boots in Fabian Taylor, Sergio Galvan Rey and Cornell Glen, but they all failed to make any impression on the season. They did manage to make it to the playoffs once again, but D.C. United put an early end to their hopes in a two-game sweep.
However, success was finally found outside of the US when they won the LaManga Cup, becoming the only team in the MLS to win a competition in another country. Having beaten Dynamo Kyiv 3-2 in the semi-finals, they then managed to outplay Viking FC from Norway to win 1-0. Finally, they had some silverware to be proud of.
2005 saw the arrival of the French star Youri Djorkaeff in a bid to get some more trophies. However, although he proved to be the star player, the overall team performances were very up and down.
With three games left, Bradley was fired and replaced by Mo Johnston, who managed to get them through to the playoffs. Unfortunately, they still could not manage to progress as they lost to the New England Revolution 3-2
Red Bull take over
In 2006, Red Bull bought the franchise, a move which did not prove popular with many fans. When the name was changed to Red Bull New York, a number of fans even left the team in protest. Others stayed with the club, however, hoping that the change in ownership would bring about a change in fortunes on the pitch.
Initial progress was good, and in a friendly home game with Bayern Munich they came out victorious, winning 4-2. But it was not a particularly successful year, and former United States manager Bruce Arena became the new coach at the end of the season. After taking over, he managed to get them through to the playoffs once again, but they went out to a goal at the death against D.C. United.
In Arena’s first full season in charge, he not only brought in some real talent in Claudio Reyna, but he also brought back the fans’ favourite Clint Mathis to try and raise moral.
He also brought in Colombian player Juan Pablo Angel, who set a new club record with 19 league goals in one season. On November 3rd, 2007 they played in the playoffs once again, this time against New England Revolution. However, with Angel going off with concussion in the second half, they were beaten 1-0.
Having now replaced Bruce Arena with Juan Carlos, the team are planning a move to the new 25,000 capacity Red Bull Park in Harrison, New Jersey in 2009, where they are hoping that their fortunes will finally take a turn for the better.
- LaManga Cup – Winners (2004)
- Clint Mathis (2000-04, 2007)
- Juan Pablo Angel (2007-)
- Tim Howard (1998-2003)
- Branco (1997)
- Youri Djorkaeff (2005-06)
- Roberto Donadoni (1996-97)
- Giovanni Savarese (1996-98)