Monday, April 22, 2013

'That's so Metro' Buried, New York Red Bulls Are Champions

COMMENTARY | Same old Metro. Always winning.

Cynics and critics can say whatever they want about how little it means for a team to finish a Major League Soccer season atop the standings. The 2013 New York Red Bulls are and forever will be known as Champions. Nobody can take that away from the team or from what has been the most tortured fan base in the league.

Sunday evening wasn't just about RBNY putting five unanswered goals on the scoreboard en route to defeating Chicago Fire and earning the first significant and meaningful trophy in franchise history. It was a statement of defiance to any and all entities, real or imagined, that have been against this organization for nearly two decades. In the same year that New York City Football Club were announced and New York Cosmos again kinda/sorta became a thing, the Red Bulls emerged as North America's top soccer club.

New York's historic night followed the script perfectly. Of course the Red Bulls had to concede the first goal, and of course it had to be former New York player and RBNY killer Mike Magee who buried it. Only after the day's ultimate "That's So Metro" moment could the cliché that has been used throughout the years to mock the club be sent to the grave.

The stat sheet serves as a summary of New York's campaign. Captain Thierry Henry delivered a Goal of the Week/Month banger to bring the Red Bulls level in the first half. Team and MLS MVP candidate Tim Cahill was in the heart of the scrum that saw New York take the lead four minutes after the halftime break. Eric Alexander and Jonny Steele, two offseason acquisitions that helped the Red Bulls become arguably the deepest team in the league, netted tallies.

And what of Péguy Luyindula? The front man who went from featuring for a Champions League side to routinely missing the target while wearing New York red and white has been reborn as the squad's real No. 10 (no disrespect meant to Mr. Lloyd Sam). He was credited with three assists in the win over Chicago, and Luyindula has absolutely earned a spot in the starting XI for the upcoming playoff matches.

The evening as much belonged to the supporters, particularly those who make up the South Ward of Red Bull Arena, as it did to the team. Anybody seated in that region of the arena got a Red Bulls history lesson in a little over 90 minutes. There was stunned silence after Magee opened the scoring. "Don Garber's Worst Nightmare," an homage to the perception that the MLS commissioner isn't always the biggest fan of this franchise, was belted out after New York went up 4-1. Last but not least was the singing of one word that many thought they would never hear sung by the RBNY faithful: campeones.

Yes, grown men did shed tears. Strangers hugged as if they were lifelong friends. The party continued long after head coach and Red Bulls icon Mike Petke addressed the home crowd. All involved had more than earned the celebration.

There is indeed more football to be played and a league title to be won. For the first time ever, New York will enter the postseason not as "MLS Cup or Bust" pretenders, but as champions. Metro no more, the Red Bulls can finally proudly display their trophy case.

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