BY ERIC GIACOMETTI
I needed this. I really did.
Allow me for a moment, if you will, to gush about these New York Red Bulls. Last night’s match embodied everything that this year’s team stands for. Gritty, resilient, hungry, and all those other superlatives that you so often hear.
For a rivalry that was supposedly dwindling in intensity, you certainly wouldn’t have come to that conclusion based on last night’s hotly contested match. That was something special, and those who were lucky enough to have attended (thank you, Seeing Red) will remember this one for years to come. Let’s take a look at who we can thank for such a memorable night in Harrison.
Bar none, the most electric atmosphere I’ve seen at RBA since Opening Day 2010. An oft overused comparison, last night’s crowd surely fit the bill. And let’s get one thing out of the way; this was not your usual Chris Heck “announced sellout.” No, the Arena was loud from kick off to final whistle. Even after DC went ahead just 30 seconds into match, they would not be silenced.
All credit to the South Ward. The tifo was remarkable. They went all out, as would be expected, and they were the beating heart that steadied the boys in white to collect three huge points at home. Thanks to their raucous support, Red Bull Arena has truly become a fortress, as New York is sporting a 5-0-2 record at home. It sure was nice to see so little blue throughout the stands. Hopefully, showings such as last night will start to become the rule rather than the exception.
From the hot seat to manager of the year consideration, Hans Backe has gotten the most out of his lineup time after time.
Throughout 2012, he has had to continuously shift around his lineup due to injuries, international call-ups, and suspensions. Last night, he was without Wilman Conde, Markus Holgersson, and Thierry Henry was relegated to a role off the bench. Yet somehow, the team continues to get results. He’s molded Conor Lade into an offensive threat in the midfield, stuck with Ryan Meara between the pipes, and gotten the most out of Brandon Barklage at right back (but we’ll get to him later). His squad’s versatility gives him the option to play lineup-Tetris more often than not, but it still has to work. He’s pushed all the right buttons, and he deserves a large share of the credit for the team’s fist place position in the East.
Forgive me if I’m getting too caught up in the moment, but is it too much of a hyperbole to call him a legend? Maybe so, but his performance against the hated Scum will go down in MetroBull history.
From his kung fu kick strike to level the affair to his venomous volley to swing the match in New York’s favor just before the stroke of halftime, Barklage put in a well-deserved man of the match performance. And let’s not forget the subplot; Barklage was cut by United after he was told he couldn’t hack it at the MLS level following back-to-back ACL surgeries. That is the ultimate “How do you like me now?” He was visibly pumped, and you can’t help but feel ecstatic for him. What a feeling it must be – to not only score your first two MLS goals, but to do it against the team that said you weren’t good enough? Priceless.