MLS Fan Watch: New York Red Bulls
November, 5, 2012
By Chris Gigley | ESPN The Magazine
Mike Stobe/Getty ImagesJohnny Toro is just one of the Red Bulls superfans you may encounter at Red Bull Arena in Harrison, N.J.Editor's note: Welcome to MLS Fan Watch, in which ESPN Playbook takes a closer look at the supporting group for each of the eight MLS conference semifinalists. The fifth in the series focuses on fans of the New York Red Bulls.
The Red Bulls finished the regular season with 57 points, the highest total in the franchise’s 17-year history, and entered MLS Cup play with high hopes.
That’s why Saturday's lackluster away draw against DC United was so disappointing. The Red Bulls are expecting a better result Wednesday in the conference semifinal second leg at Red Bull Arena, where they were 11-2-4 this season.
Red Bull Arena is an easy place to love. The $200 million masterpiece is about as close to a European-style soccer stadium as it gets in MLS, with a completely enclosed seating bowl and a partially translucent roof spanning 120 feet from the last seat to just over the touchlines.
Here's what to expect in Harrison, N.J., for Wednesday night's match:
• Stadium: Red Bull Arena
• Opened: 2010
• Capacity: 25,000
• Supporter groups and stadium locations:
The South Ward (Sections 102-132)
- Empire Supporters Club: Bills itself as the oldest supporters club in MLS, founded in early 1995 in anticipation of a new professional franchise in the New York metro area. Its group is rowdy and multiethnic. They start most of the songs and chants emanating from the South Ward.
- Garden State Ultras: Launched in 2005, the Ultras' aim is to create a Euro-style supporting atmosphere by singing, chanting and generally making noise for 90 minutes.
- Viking Army Supporters: They're big on tifos and the community. As an official 501(c)(7) social organization, the Army works with a number of charities, including Balls Without Borders, Toys For Tots and the U.S. Amputee Association.
• Known for: The roof. Red Bull Arena is the only soccer venue in North America with a 360-degree roof covering every single seat in the house. It may not sound exciting, but any fan who’s sat through a Giants or Jets game in damp, cold weather certainly wishes MetLife Stadium had one.
Mike Stobe/Getty ImagesRed Bull Arena is the only soccer venue on the continent with a roof that covers every seat.
• Sample chant: "We Love Ya" (to the tune of Ricky Nelson’s “I Will Follow You”)
"We love ya
We love ya
We love ya
We love ya
And when you play
We follow! We follow! We follow!
Cause we support the Metro!
The Metro! The Metro!
And that’s the way we like it!
We like it! We like it!
Oh-oh Oh-oh Oh-ooooooooo"
• Fan favorite: Thierry Henry, forward. New Yorkers love stars and winners, and Henry is both.
The French international has won nearly every championship and individual award there is in soccer, and has Arsenal, Barcelona and Juventus on his C.V.
Mike Stobe/Getty ImagesA star in London, Barcelona and now New York.
Henry continues to deliver the goods for the Red Bulls. This year, he was second on the team (and fifth in the league) with 15 goals and led New York with 12 assists.
• Opponent’s perspective: “It’s a nice stadium and a good pitch, but I think because of the rivalry we have with them it’s always a tough place to play.
"They have all their supporter groups in one place behind the goal, and they heckle you for the whole game. We start hearing stuff as soon as we walk out for warm-ups.
"Plus, that stadium is enclosed with the roof that really holds in the noise. Some guys shy away from an environment like that, but I think it really adds to our rivalry. Even as a visiting player, it’s something you can feed off of.” -- Chris Pontius, D.C. United forward