A dream debut for Red Bull Arena

Posted on 20 March 2010 by Nathaniel E. Baker

Mike Petke celebrates his first goal at Red Bull Arena--and a whole lot more ©Scott Marsh/ASN

The New York Red Bulls kicked off the Red Bull Arena era in style Saturday night, trouncing Santos FC by 3-1. It was a superb performance by New York and one clearly inspired by its new digs in Harrison N.J. The Red Bulls looked so good, it was hard to tell which team was the storied franchise from Brazil and which the supposedly pithy upstarts from Major League Soccer.

View ASN’s photo gallery here

Beyond the home side’s performance, which we’ll get to in a minute, the night was a celebration of its new ground. Here too all the elements came together exactly right; the weather felt more like late May than late March, with daytime temperatures in the 70s but the mood was livened from news that occurred earlier in the day. In a 1 p.m. conference call, the league and its players union announced a new, five-year collective bargaining agreement that will ensure the 2010 MLS season will start on time. So by the afternoon of gameday, fans knew there was nothing to hold back the good cheer.

It only took 11 minutes into the game for the positive vibe to increase to a fever pitch. Joel Lindpere booted a free kick from about 20 yards off the wall, somehow collected his own rebound and deposited it past Santos goalkeeper Fabio Costa.

Santos got back into the game and dominated possession for the ensuing 25 minutes. But the Red Bulls defense, anchored by Mike Petke (wearing the captain’s armband in Juan Pablo Angel’s absence) and rookie Tim Ream held firm.

Shortly before halftime New York took control of the match and largely decided matters. Off of a corner kick Ream headed the ball to a wide open Petke, who tapped it home. 2-0 Red Bulls. Moments later Macoumba Kandji switched the ball to an unmarked Dane Richards streaking down the right side. The Jamaican international wound up and unleashed a laser into the opposite top corner of the net, leaving Costa no chance.

Hans Backe made a few changes after halftime. Carl Robinson left the match, with Juan Agudelo entering in Kandji’s spot. Kandji took up position at left midfield. Ubiparipovic moved over to right mid. Aside from some rough play (mainly by Santos) and a last-minute goal by the visitors the second half was largely uneventful.


“We looked good today,” Backe said after the match. “We defended very well, all the time. We allowed them just three or four chances over 90 minutes and we created a lot by ourselves.”

The Swedish coach said he was particularly impressed with Condoul (“made some spectacular saves in the first half”) and Ream (“this must be a player for the U.S. national team in a couple of years”).

Backe said he would make a decision on trialist Ibrahim Salou “tomorrow” (Sunday). Asked to say which way he was leaning, the Red Bulls head coach said “I’m rather happy with what I’ve seen.”

Asked his impression of Red Bull Arena, Backe said “It’s one of the best I’ve ever been in the last 20 years.”

The move of Kandji to left midfield after halftime was not a one-off. “I think he can be an option as a wide left player,” the coach said.

John Wolyniec on Red Bull Arena:
“It was great. Fans got here early in numbers. We’re real happy about that. So proud. So grateful. The construction of the building is great. Even when the stadium was halfway full during warmups it was still pretty loud. We found it hard to even talk to each other on the bench [during the game]. It’s definitely a great atmosphere.”

Jeremy Hall on marking Brazilian prodigy Neymar
“I just tried to let him come at me as much as possible until I got around the 18. I knew he was going to run into help, he was gonna cut inside and go out wide. The team did a good job helping me out. He wasn’t really going anywhere, just coming inside and he got stuffed…overall I thought we did a great job defending him.”

Juan Agudelo on coming through the team’s developmental system as opposed to college:
“My goal in life is to be one of the best soccer players in the world, or the top 100. Most of those people that were in the top 100 didn’t go to college; they started their careers early and that’s what I would like to do. And that’s what’s going to happen.

My targets [for this season] are to score a couple of goals and help the team when they need me. Get assists and goals. That’s my job.”


Prematch (Red Bull) player introductions:

Here Mike Petke discusses “the longest six weeks of my life”–the last 10 years leading up to tonight’s grand opening:

A stirring rendition of the star spangled banner by Kelly Rowland:

Match Facts

New York Red Bulls 3, Santos FC 1
March 20, 2010 – Red Bull Arena; Harrison, NJ

Scoring Summary:
NY: Joel Lindpere (unassisted) 11’
NY: Mike Petke (Tim Ream, Carl Robinson) 43’
NY: Dane Richards (Macoumba Kandji) 45’
SAN: Germano (Alex Sandro) 91’

Disciplinary Summary:
NY: Ibrahim Salou (caution) 16’
SAN: Bruno Aguiar (caution) 42’
SAN: Zezinho (caution) 58’
NY: Wolyniec (caution) 73’


Santos FC – Fabio Costa (Rapahel 86’), Bruno Aguiar, Alex Sandro (Wesley Santos 64’), George Lucas, Alan Santos (Jefferson 82’), Luciano Castan, Neymar, Germano, Breitner (Diego Monar 46’), Giovanni (Marcel 46’), Zezinho (Crystain 80’)

New York Red Bulls (7-0-3) – Bouna Coundoul (GK) (Greg Sutton 61’), Roy Miller, Tim Ream, Mike Petke (Andrew Boyens 80’), Jeremy Hall, Sinisa Ubiparipovic, Joel Lindpere (Tony Tchani 85’), Carl Robinson (Juan Agudelo* 46’), Dane Richards (Luke Sassano 61’), Macoumba Kandji (Austin da Luz 73’), Ibrahim Salou* (John Wolyniec 67’)

Referee: Jorge Gonzalez
Referee’s Assistants: C.J. Morgante, Thomas Supple
4th Official: Mark Geiger
Attendance: 25,000

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