La Manga. The Mickey Mouse Cup. Emirates 2011. Surely the mere recollection of those crowning achievements is enough to bring a tear to any long-suffering Red Bulls fan; I’ll let you decipher the emotions behind those tears.
Fans and journalists alike have long pondered exactly how New York’s futility streak can even still be in existence. It’s something of a statistical anomaly if you really think about it. The great Grant Wahl may have summed up the sentiment of a collective fan base perfectly in his painfully accurate diatribe on our beleaguered franchise in 2011: “We’re 16 years into MLS, and New York still has zero trophies. In ’99 it was a source of amusement. These days it’s just not funny anymore.”
Indeed, the comedic sentiment of a trophy-less team no longer seems appropriate – as if it ever did for Metro/Red Bull fans. Just when will the seemingly endless drought end for New York? If this year’s collective body of work is any indication of things to come, 2012 just may be the year that New York can put a meaningful piece of silverware in their otherwise barren trophy case.
Long has the debate raged on amongst Red Bulls fans: Which cup is of paramount importance? MLS Cup? Supporter’s Shield? US Open Cup? With the depth (yeah, that’s right, depth) that the 2012 Red Bulls feature, there’s no reason that the treble should be unattainable. While New York has been decimated largely due to injuries thus far, it has proven to be a bit of a blessing in disguise, making way for relatively unknown and unproven players to take center stage. And for the most part, the proverbial baptism-by-fire has worked out quite well in the cases of Connor Lade, Brandon Barklage, and Tyler Ruthven, as they’ve shined on the MLS stage. Paired with the luxury that many of his players have the versatility to play multiple positions, Backe should have a seemingly endless array of possibilities to field competitive sides in both US Open Cup and MLS play.
Backe and Soler have proven to this fan base that they are ready to take the Open Cup seriously, as they should. Mathematically speaking, it’s the easiest route to silverware (in terms of wins necessary). Giving up on that, as they did last year, would prove to be a huge mistake. After a mostly first-choice squad dismantled the Charleston Battery, a date with old nemesis Harrisburg City Islanders is on tap. And while Thierry Henry is still likely to remain sidelined with a nagging hamstring injury, New York will surely still have enough firepower to dispatch of the feisty USL Pro side.
Not to get ahead of ourselves, but a US Open Cup title would also mean entry into the CONCACAF Champion’s League, and the chance for yet another coveted piece of silverware.
In 2012, Red Bulls fans still remain a depressed and snake-bitten bunch. After all, 17 years is quite a bit of suffering; more than perhaps most would care to bear. But wouldn’t it make a trophy that much sweeter? For our sake, let’s hope so.