Photo credit: MLS Soccer
There have been many constants in MLS: high attendance in Seattle, LA a perennial contender, spring-fall schedule. But another constant, that of New York never winning a single tournament, has now been erased. The Red Bulls won the MLS Supporter's Shield yesterday with a 5-2 decision over Chicago
I've been around MLS, or the other way around, since its inception. New York's lack of silverware was always an oddity and also a concern. How can you have a deep-pocketed, centrally-located, and soccer-rich city such as New York. Let's face it, Beckenbauer and Pele ruled the land and soccer in America for several years through Cosmos and the NASL. So why can't the city have this in MLS?
It's not for lack of trying that New York hasn't won anything until now. Their squad has included players like Branco, Roberto Donadoni, Tony Meola, Jozy Altidore, Juan Agudelo, Yuri Djorkaeff, Lothar Matthaus, Rafa Marquez, Eduardo Hurtado, Michael Bradley and Juan Pablo Angel. Some young and unproven, some in their prime, and some in their twilight of their careers, but all significant in their own right.
It took the addition of French-great Thierry Henry and Tim Cahill, as well as the subtraction of Rafa Marquez to get this team through. Add in Espindola, Olave and Dax McCarty and you get a stronger and more balanced group. But the missing piece was the coaching and this year marked a new direction. Mike Petke, a man without coaching experience but deep love for the team took the helm.
Petke suffered from the now-normal inconsistencies that always plagued this New York club but broke through thanks to the incomparable play of Tim Cahill and a suddenly-stout defense. New York was more difficult to beat and gathered enough points to push for winning the league. And win they did.
Mike Petke is a different sort of coach. Young, energetic, with a bit of Guradiola to his look and style. Along with Caleb Porter or Portland, he is a new breed of MLS coach. One that knows what it's like to play in the American soccer scene, and for Petke, one that knows what it's like to play in Major League Soccer.
It's now up to a newly-minted New York Red Bulls team to continue its good fortunes and go beyond the Shield won yesterday and win the MLS Cup. With the Caricola curse lifted, this team knows no bounds and West Coast squads should be wary. It would be great to have another title in this city ahead of the second MLS New York team: New York City FC.