Bull’s Eye View: Red Bull’s First Kick Whiff

IMAGE, MATT KREMKAU, EMPIRE OF SOCCER

BY STEVE HOFFMAN
Staff Writer

I like to golf. I’m not very good (or even a little good) at it, but for some reason, I find it to be both relaxing and challenging all at the same time. I don’t get to play very much. Once or twice a year on a public course somewhere around the NY area is my usual “season,” or if I’m really lucky, I’ll get in a round on a nice resort course during a vacation.

“That’s nice,” you think. “What the heck does this have to do with the New York Red Bulls?”

Well, let me tell you. In golf there are the rules of the game the pros play, and then there are all kinds of shadow rules of the game as it is played by folks like you and me on your local course. In that list of shadow rules, there is the concept of the “Mulligan.” Basically, it’s a do-over. You hit an awful shot deep into the woods and you decide to take your Mulligan, grab another ball and hope against hope that you don’t slice it into the woods once more.

The way we played as I grew up, you only got one Mulligan per round, so part of the strategy in this unwritten rule was the decision of when to actually use it.

Last Saturday, the Red Bulls played their season opener in the beautiful (except for the field under foot) city of Vancouver. And it’s not a stretch to say that in golf terms, their performance was the equivalent of stepping up to the first tee with a long line of carts and players behind them watching, taking several warm-up swings, and then taking a mighty whack at the ball, only to see it dribble along the ground and barely roll far enough to reach the ladies tee box.

In other words, a complete and total whiff.

This is the case where, as a golfer, or fan of RBNY, you are tempted to immediately use your Mulligan. After all, the first tee, like a team’s MLS First Kick, is one of the most visible moments of the season. It sets the tone. Lots of people — having waited a long time to finally get to this moment — are paying attention. Can’t we just call “Mulligan” and do the whole thing over?

Here’s the thing: Never take a Mulligan on the first hole. There’s plenty of shots left to play (for someone like me, well over 100…), the first tee is just too public to try to get away with it, and given the way the first shot went, it’s unlikely that the Mulligan will go much better.

We can’t Mulligan away the match we saw on Saturday, and neither can the team. Starting with the first pass of the night from Eric Alexander directly to the midfield of the Whitecaps which led to a fantastic chance for Vancouver, you had the feeling that team and fans alike were in for a bumpy ride. Too many giveaways by the midfield. Too much passive, backpedaling defense that refused to properly pressure the ball. It all went wobbly right away and continued for 90 minutes. Even Mike Petke’s sweater was in off form with horizontal stripes and a cowl neck that proved to be a bit of a stretch.

On the positive side, Peguy Luyindula and Lloyd Sam had some promising moments of interchange, and Luis Robles was positively heroic all night long, forced to stand on his head while playing behind a defense that had less shape than a Jello mold at a Fourth of July picnic.

So, there’s no Mulligan forthcoming for the team. And for the fans I say: Keep your powder dry. There will be other moments during the season — much more important moments — where you are going to want to be able to take that second ball out of your bag.

For now, look forward to Saturday’s Home Opener, complete with a celebration to raise the Supporter’s Shield Banner. That should be a special time for all of us that will be made even better by Henry and Olave’s return and a decisive win over Colorado.