The NFL’s Giants Stadium was once a famous venue of American soccer, a must-be-seen place with packed crowds and Pele in the 1970s.
Then the New York MetroStars, later rebranded to Red Bull New York, started playing there almost two decades later in Major League Soccer.
As the Red Bulls laid the final piece of sod today at their new, impressive Red Bull Arena in New Jersey, some current players took the chance to express their feelings about Giants Stadium and the support they (did not) receive there. The massive stadium seemed to serve mainly as a mausoleum for a team that could never win over the soccer fans (or perhaps their children) in the region who once packed out the place for the Cosmos.
And it certainly never won over the home team’s players who consistently struggled on turf in front of pitiful crowds.
I’ll present the comments from the players on Giants Stadium without commentary, but I do wonder if a new stadium is really the magical solution they all seem to think it is — even if it will certainly be a significant step-up, deeper issues to do with winning on the pitch and attracting soccer fans to a soft drink branded team still exist.
From the MLS site at today’s ceremony at Red Bull Arena:
Mike Petke, New York Red Bulls veteran defender:
I’m brainwashed, I’m still seeing turf right now. Until I actually go down there and feel it, I’m not going to believe it. While Giants Stadium was good to us and was our home for so long, just to have not only the stadium and the grass, knowing that we won’t be running on rock-hard concrete anymore in front of sparse crowds, is just an overwhelmingly great feeling.
Juan Pablo Angel, New York Red Bulls captain:
I was probably the biggest critic of Giants Stadium since my first day here. I never liked it, I never liked the surface, I never liked the atmosphere, apart from the L.A. game in 2007. That was the only decent atmosphere we ever had at Giants Stadium. Apart from that it was a stadium that looked empty. For me personally, I never felt at home. That’s why I’m so excited about this. This is home, it’s like you’re walking into your second house.
I plan to be in New Jersey next spring for the Red Bulls inaugural game at Red Bull Arena, and a few Fire fans should be with me to make things a little less like home for Juan and his friends. Hopefully it will be the start of something more like soccer for the area’s MLS outpost, but we’ll have to wait and see how that stadium’s atmosphere pans out in reality.