As of this morning, Crystal Palace USA has a better record in the Open Cup than Chivas USA, both this season and all-time.
Even the most diehard New York hater perusing the Red Bulls boards last night and today must have thought, "Man, this isn't funny anymore. There but for the wrath of God go I." If you haven't perused the Red Bulls boards, the reaction is pretty much this:
That's one unhappy anthropomorphic taxicab right there.
When the GOOD option is "We don't care about the US Open Cup, and since we're not allowed to boycott it we'll effectively throw the games," you know something is broken. I was 6-2, my best prediction record since World Cup 1998 when I had France, Brazil, Holland, and the Philippines in the semifinals. (What? Three out of four, that's pretty good.) But one of the two was a game that...hm, let me check my metaphor file....
Okay, the pre-credit sequence before every "House" episode, where you know something's going to go horribly wrong, then you see something go horribly wrong, and then the rest of the episode Dr. House and the Sublets try a serious of increasingly painful, bizarre and disfiguring cures only at the very end to find that it was a runny nose or some nonsense, and by the way they killed the patient.
What an EXCELLENT metaphor for the Red Bulls. And it ties in with New Jersey, too. Shame it's a run-on sentence, otherwise it would be perfect. By the way, the other nice thing about blogging as opposed to journalism is that I can pretty much go on these pleasant little tangents and not worry about space restrictions. What a wonderful medium.
So, anyway, the symptoms. Red Bull reserves not good enough to beat an outnumbered USL-2 team. Main team tied for sixth place, playing like garbage. Differential diagnosis?
Well, they're a game above .500, and they'd be a point out of first place in the West, so maybe nothing's wrong. But that's like being the second-best decathlete in the leper colony. Single-table dreams notwithstanding, there's no way you can finish sixth and get your playoff spot.
Maybe JCO and the RBNY brain trust think the Open Cup is for losers. That's depressingly close to how Manchester United, Arsenal, Chelsea and other riff-raff treat the FA Cup, except...and you're probably way ahead of me on this one...those teams win or contend for other trophies. Even the Lamarphobic Revolution finally got tired of contending for nothing besides Cleanest Trophy Cabinet in MLS and said "All right, all right, we'll win the damned Open Cup already. What next, we have to care about CONCACAF?" When it comes to the Bulls turning up their noses at the most storied trophy in American soccer, a phrase leaps to mind regarding beggars and choosers.
Maybe Claudio Reyna's taking up all the money. Well, it's not usually good form to blame a guy who wasn't there for a loss, but wow. Keanu Reeves added more to "Much Ado About Nothing" than Reyna has for the Red Bulls this year. You would think freeing up Reyna's money would also free up cash to find some guys who could hang with Crystal Freaking Palace Freaking Baltimore, but I don't think Reyna is the guy who was scouting and signing reserves.
So maybe it's coaching? Well, except the Red Bulls are on their third coach in the past twenty minutes or so. And they fired Bruce Arena because he didn't win MLS Cup, a reason that sounded weird at the time and downright baffling these days. By this logic, and probably by common sense and basic soccer knowledge, it's too early to fire Juan Carlos Osorio. And they already fired the guy who made the Red Bulls what they are today...or, if you prefer, he left to sell purple drink. Technically, the Open Cup debacle happened on Erik Stover's watch, but if he wants to blame his predecessor, I'm fine with that.
It's one thing to mark time before Red Bull Park opens, because why waste money on building and marketing a successful team if the profits just go to the NJSEA? And there are plenty of misleading instances of teams in other sports moving into new arenas or stadiums, then winning championships. This hasn't happened so far in MLS. Los Angeles and Chicago took good teams into their new digs, and whatever myriad mistakes those teams made down the road, they haven't lost their fanbase. Colorado and Dallas, on the other hand, found out that it's hard to reverse years of cruise control bordering on free fall overnight. DC United and Houston haven't stayed still just because their current homes have been effectively red-tagged.
I'm sure Jeff Parke isn't going to be on the cover of the media guide when Red Bull Park opens - even as we speak, the brain trust in Austria is scheming to bring a megastar over to fulfill the legacy of Pele, Beckenbauer, Chinaglia, and Tab Ramos.* But whoever it is - let's for the sake of argument call him "Thierry Henry," because not even the Red Bulls are dumb enough to bring in Ronaldo at this point - they're still going to bump into the problem of the supporting cast not being able to beat a team named after the eighth or ninth most popular team in London.
At least it looks like it'll be a nice stadium. Don't forget to put a roof on it.
*Devo was right. Stop me if I've told you that one.