- Posted by Geoff Reid
- On July 29, 2009
- 8 Comments
- Geoff Reid, Pele
Editor’s Note: Geoff Reid appears on WVHooligan.com each week. Geoff would also like to give a special thanks to long time Red Bulls/MetroStars season ticket holder Daniel Feuerstein for his contribution. Today he is back to discuss the state of the world’s game in New York. Feel free to leave him a note below.
On Saturday evening, the New York Red Bulls were on the end of a 4-0 thrashing at the hands of the Colorado Rapids in what was a perfect example of their 2009 season up to this point.† Juan Pablo Angel was subbed off in the second half presumably to be rested for the CONCACAF Champions League Qualifier this week against W Connection of Trinidad and Tobago with the result already lost.
If Osorio and the club can make some noise in the Champions League this season he may yet save the job that he so dearly wanted, and give the club some credibility this season to salvage something.† The result got me thinking more in depth not only about the club itself, but how it has fallen short of standards by fans and media alike.† In order to answer this question, we need to dig deeper into the history of the sport in the New York City and Tri-State area.
New York City has historically been one of the most diverse cities in the world and continues to do so which is one of the many reasons what makes it so great.† New York City is an example of what makes this country so great and for millions of families, Ellis Island was the reason why so many people are here.† In those many diverse cultures that found there way to these shores was footballing cultures and heritage and they still keep coming in to this very day.† Steve Nash and Claudio Reynaís charity kick-around in the heart of the city shows that there is a real football culture in the city and has been for some time.
Naming all the countless professional, semi professional and amateur clubs in the area is impossible because there have been thousands if not more in the last century or so.† However, one club that existed in the 1960ís symbolizes a big culture ethnically and football wise: New York Inter of the old American Soccer League.† Named after the Serie A powerhouse managed currently by Jose Mourinho showed us a good chunk of the Italian heritage section and Italian being the top European ancestry as of the year 2000 census with 8.5% and Irish being next with 5.3%.† New York Inter was only around for a few years (1964-69) but it was during that time when Inter Milan were arguably in the clubs most successful period winning the European Cup in 1965 knocking out my beloved Liverpool in the semi-finals on some terrible refereeing in the second leg at the San Siro (if anyone thinks referees have been bad in MLS this season, itís nothing compared to this ref!).
The next chapter that comes to mind would be the New York Generals who were originally in the National Professional Soccer League and when the league merged with the United Soccer Association it became what we know as the North American Soccer League.† The Generals played in the inaugural NASL season before closing down.† When the leagues merged, the New York team in the USA was known as the New York Skyliners who were one team in a league that was made up of clubs imported from foreign leagues and the Skyliners folded to make room for the Generals.† New York wouldnít have a professional club again until 1971 when a new club was formed called the New York Cosmos.
The New York Cosmos were originally like every other club in the NASL: struggling to get crowds, tradition, stadiums, publicity and money.† That is until one player chose to try his luck in America and try to grow the sport long before a certain David Beckham: Pele, the greatest player of all time.† Yes, thatís a fact, he was better then Diego Maradona.† We all complain about some of the surfaces in MLS today with some clubs playing turf or in some cases on sand, but compared to what the Cosmos played on in their early days itís like playing at Wembley.† The surface at Hofstra Stadium had to be painted green to make it look like grass. Once the club moved to Giants Stadium in East Rutherford, NJ it would become their home until the club canceled all operations in 1985.
The Cosmos lived up to itís name by the players they signed: Pele, Franz Beckenbauer, Carlos Alberto, Giorgio Chinaglia and Jomo Sono to name just a few.† They really were Cosmopolitans in every sense of the word and the club represented New York City by players spending a good chunk of their time in Manhattan including Studio 54.† They were New York football at itís finest.† My father was a season ticket holder for the Cosmos and well as the Philadelphia Atoms long before I was born and he continues to tell me stories of the experience he had during those years.† He told me only the experience of being at a match at Anfield on a European night (most notably the match versus Olympiakos in December, 2004) beats the atmosphere at Cosmos matches.† The Cosmos were a blueprint of how the league as a whole was successful and unsuccessful at the same time: bringing in star players that attracted record crowds at that point in time with Giants Stadium becoming a football mecca when full, while over paying players and giving them money they simply couldnít afford and having no real marketing plan and therefore wasnít able to survive.
For all the good the NASL did for football in this country, the misguided management of the league at the top put the sport behind and weíve been trying to make up the ground since.† Football in the Tri-State area was no different.† It took the 1994 World Cup to set the ball rolling again.† If it wasnít for the Cosmos, you wouldnít see so many youth fields dedicated for our sport right now and instead itíll probably be baseball diamonds or gridiron fields.† I was only 10 at the time, but from what I remember watching that tournament from England was the group match at Giants Stadium between Ireland and Italy, two massive populations in New York City and the surrounding area.† Iím still trying to see if I can pick it up on DVD but it was a reminder of what it used to be like 15 years earlier.
FIFA granted the United States the 1994 World Cup on the condition that a professional league would start soon after and thatís exactly what happened in 1996 with Major League Soccer.† The New York/New Jersey MetroStars was the chosen name for the club in the area.† Itís fair to say since day one this club was up against it with all the history the Cosmos created and having to live in itís shadow by playing at Giants Stadium.† Choosing a name like the MetroStars was a massive mistake first of all.† Simply put itís just not a good name for a club.† In all honesty the New York team should have been named the Cosmos from day one but MLS didnít want to have any ties to the old NASL for very good reasons.† As the league expands further by bringing in old NASL names back to areas that were successful, the second team that will eventually be put in New York City at some point must be called the Cosmos again, especially if it will play in one of the five boroughs and not in the Tri-State area.
The name of the club was one of many wrong decisions the club have made in 14 years.† The identity of the club has been hazy at best with the name itself changing several times from New York/New Jersey MetroStars then to just MetroStars and finally New York Red Bulls when the slate was wiped clean.† Before the Austrian energy drinkís takeover of the club, the club uniform and badge couldnít be decided upon.† At one point, the kit looked like a replica of an old AC Milan jersey with the only difference being a Metros badge instead of a Rossoneri one and the word MetroStars in jazzy letters rather then the Milan sponsors.
There was also no cultural identity with the club or stability.† Reading old reports and interviews with former players, it was said the club was run like a minor league baseball team which is a complete 180 degree turnaround from the Cosmos and it was not New York football.† More players have gone in and out of the club and the club has had the most managers out of any other in MLS so far.† No matter who has taken the job, the results never seemed to follow.† From Carlos Alberto Parreira to Juan Carlos Osorio no coach has been given enough sufficient time to do the job or had the full support of the directors.† Itís fair to say that when the league started operations they hoped the New York club would be everything that DC United has turned out to be.† Los Angeles Galaxy has lived up to the hope the league had when it started by making the playoffs every season until 2006 and playing in a few finals and winning two in the process. Itís important for any league here in America in any sport that the clubs in New York and Los Angeles to be good, especially in football with the traditions that both cities have in the game.
Iíve mentioned on here before that I fully support the Red Bull takeover to give the club a new, permanent identity as well as building the club itís stadium and training facilities it has so long strive to do and with red tape getting in the way because of some politicians being haters of the sport more then anything.† Itís the same problem DC United are currently facing when they have more of an argument to get their own stadium built more so then the Washington Nationals, yet itís the baseball team with no fan support who gets a tax payer state of the art stadium.† In March 2010, a new beginning will start for football in the Tri-State area with the opening of Red Bull Arena.† The club can make a profit by controlling revenue and can bring back some of the fan base that has been alienated not by the club, but by the folks who run the security at Giants Stadium banning certain fans from ever coming back to support their beloved club.
One thing that New York has been lacking since the inaugural season of MLS was star power when Roberto Donadoni played for the first squad assembled to help boost the Italian population in the area for attendance.† Some will argue Youri Djorkaeff was a World Cup winner, but not in the same breadth others are mentioned in.† My father said New York need a big name and unfortunately even though Juan Pablo Angel is a quality striker without any doubt, heís not a global name people know like Ronaldinho, Kaka or Messi.† Of course the chance of getting those types of players will not happen, but someone like Thierry Henry is a very real possibility given the fact that he loves New York City, has expressed interest not only playing in MLS, but for the Red Bulls specifically and with the new stadium opening next season, heíd be the perfect Designated Player signing the club still has available since Claudio Reyna retired.† Henry would be much more successful in this league then David Beckham has, at least on the pitch.† There has been rumblings on bringing Alex Del Piero over as well but that would be a much higher risk considering he is older and more injury prone but can still play.
The future of football in New York has potential to be very bright if the right decisions are made.† Stability is so important in sport and in this league as itís been shown down in Houston with the Dynamo.† Once the club is in profitability, and there is a full cultural identity then that should be a good time to maybe bring back the Cosmos name possibly promoting FC New York to MLS from USL-1 if they can get their own Stadium built.† New York City is the only other city besides Los Angeles that is big enough to have a derby and that would be tremendous for the league.
Hereís to hoping New York football will be back to itís best in the near future.