Honesty, Transparency Can Go A Long Way For New York Red Bulls

IMAGE, MATT KREMKAU FOR EMPIRE OF SOCCER

The outcry from New York Red Bull fans after their club’s CONCACAF Champions League ouster on Wednesday night has been palpable — and who can blame them?

The organization promised to take all competitions seriously heading into the 2014 season. Needless to say, that has hardly been the case. The regular season has sputtered along until recently. Their U.S. Open Cup loss to the New York Cosmos was not only embarrassing on the field, but it clearly highlighted the organization’s disregard for the oldest tournament in North America — an attitude carried from head coach Mike Petke straight through to the Austrian front office.

Then came the latest letdown; a 0-0 draw against an over-matched CD FAS that eliminates the Red Bulls from the tournament — with a match in hand.

Taking all competitions seriously?

While the messaging from the front office has become more streamlined since the arrival of Marc de Grandpre, the Technical side of the team is shooting themselves in the foot with promises of grandeur.  Case in point: Wednesday night’s draw.  Leading into the match, Petke said he expected to travel out to El Salvador with “90%” of his starters ready to go.  A quick look at the 18-man roster, however, would reveal New York’s four highest paid players — Jamison Olave, Tim Cahill, Thierry Henry and Bradley Wright-Phillips — were nowhere to be found.  The closest thing to a peep coming from this foursome emanated from Cahill’s Twitter, wishing his teammates luck amidst Everton related re-tweets and mentions of yet another Australian call-up.

Adding to New York’s narrative of hope was a story that truly came out of left field, espousing the lavish travel expenses of the Red Bull organization for this match in El Salvador — as if tales of private chartered planes, high end hotels and luxury travel were supposed to counter the tried and true narrative of their tightening budget.

As we have addressed on these very pages, both Petke and Roxburgh have been the kind of critical-media kryptonite the Red Bulls always hoped to have.  Lately, however, the messaging has become ham-handed, making performances like Wednesday night’s CCL ouster larger, more involved narratives.

I won’t delude myself into thinking fans would just shrug off a CCL ouster because Roxburgh said it wasn’t a priority.  However, the vitriol would not be as adamant — nor the discussion as vicious — if the club simply explained they were too stretched to be competitive in all competitions.

If you need an example of the power of honesty in action, take a look at the club’s 1-0 loss against Montreal in their second CCL match.  Petke gently hinted the team would be “very different” and “younger” than his usual deployments.  The narrative was set, the circumstances, understood.  The result?  Fans left feeling encouraged by the performance of their seldom-used youngsters in a 1-0 loss, feeling a sense of pride in the organization for competing when no one expected them to. What happened Wednesday night — and the fan vitriol that followed — could have been mitigated with a message of honesty.

Ask yourselves, Red Bull fans … would this message have worked to start the 2015 season?

“We as an organization want to take the next step forward.  While we are honored to represent our club and league in both the U.S. Open Cup and CONCACAF Champions League — and we promise to be competitive in both — understand our aim, above all else, is to make a real run at the MLS Cup and putting an end to our Championship drought.”

After the initial and obligatory hand-wringing subsided, New York would be left with a baseline of expectations and an understanding of club operations from the front office straight down to the fanbase.  Instead of the story being Red Bulls’ incompetence on the international club level, the focus could have been on their unbelievable, undefeated run in regular season play, stemming, at its most negative, into an analytical discussion over the merits of the club’s priorities this year.

Admitting priority on one tournament over another isn’t showing weakness or giving an opponent an advantage.  Frankly, you could have given CD FAS the Red Bull starting XI a week in advance and they would still struggle to bring down the MLS giants.  Instead, honesty would bring a sense of harmony to a club during a time where you could have predicted heartache.

To repeat, no one expected New York to succeed with seven matches in 22 days.  Something had to give, and with time and transparency, Red Bull fans could have accepted the regular season as the priority, and all other tournaments, a perk.

Instead, the team’s management and technical staff are once again feeling the scrutiny of their supporters, just as they did when they failed to secure a USL Pro team.  Or failed to pull the trigger on three promised moves.  Or professed taking the U.S. Open Cup seriously while fielding a B-squad and laughing off the result shortly there after.

You get the point.

A good friend once told me “the dumbest lies are the ones you don’t have to make.”  Clearly, New York intended to be competitive in the CCL, and were as scrappy as one could hope for given their available roster.  However, their priorities were as clear as the starting XI in Estadio Cuscatian.

This season has been MLS CUP OR BUST.  Is that such a bad message to live by?

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  • The real Stan

    All they do is lie, then trot Petke out to support the lies. I love the club but they’re the mets plain and simple. No need to get worked up anymore because they’ll let us down more than prove us right. MLS cup or bust now I guess

  • Anonymous

    Anyone else get the feeling MLS cup will be a bust?

  • Anthony

    they had a roster to play the extra 6 games, they just dont care. That much is obvious,

  • DVLVRBFAN

    And you wonder why I plan to jump ship in the spring?????????? I will wear a NYCFC shirt to the last game of the season.

    • slowleftarm

      Good bye, you won’t be missed.