MLS Playoff Roundtable Part One: Expectations for Red Bulls; more
With the MLS Cup playoffs getting underway Wednesday night, SI’s soccer staff takes a look at a few storylines in a Planet Fútbol roundtable. Here’s part one of two.
The New York Red Bulls won their first major trophy in club history Sunday when they clinched the Supporters’ Shield. Is the season a success regardless of playoff result, or will it be considered a failure if New York fails to reach the final?
Grant Wahl: Winning the Supporters’ Shield was a great moment for New York’s long-suffering fan base and guys like coach Mike Petke who’ve been connected to the franchise for years. But even Petke would tell you this season won’t be considered successful if New York fails to reach the final on its home field.
The Red Bulls aspire to be a big club and spend the money to do so. In some ways the Supporters’ Shield increases the playoff expectations by showing that this team has the capability of winning MLS Cup.
Brian Straus: I think back to what Dax McCarty told me before Sunday’s Shield clincher: “You have to start somewhere. You have to start with a winning mentality and that’s the first thing you need if you’re going to be successful.”
Now they have that start. The trophy drought had seeped into the Red Bulls’ DNA. They were losers. The curse wasn’t about Caricola. It was about executives, coaches and players that prioritized the wrong things, lacked patience or didn’t go about their work the right way. That’s changed under Petke. It’s evident on and off the field.
If New York stumbles in a short playoff series, the players and fans will be upset, and understandably so. But I think that sadness will fade over time. The culture of this club has changed for the better. The second trophy might not be lifted in a month, but it sure won’t take another 17 years. This season will be remembered as the turning point.
Alexander Abnos: If it was any other club with that roster and season record, failing to win MLS Cup would definitely equal disappointment. But this is the New York/New Jersey MetroBulls we’re talking about. Their entire existence since Red Bull purchased the team back in 2006 has been predicated on finally winning something — anything — to prove to their fans and themselves that it was possible.
They’ve done that, so from my point of view this season is already a success. I don’t expect many of the players, coaches or fans to agree with me, though. Nor should they.
Avi Creditor: I think it’s a success for New York regardless, in the context that the club exorcised plenty of its past demons and can stop waiting for the other shoe to drop.
There is little correlation between carrying the top record into the playoffs and emerging victorious, though. The Supporters’ Shield winner has won only two of the past 10 MLS Cups and reached only three of the last 10 finals. So in the vacuum that is New York Red Bulls history, already having that piece of silverware and a CONCACAF Champions League berth makes 2013 a landmark campaign, no matter what. Whatever extra comes is gravy.
Don’t think for one second that’s the mentality circulating Mike Petke’s locker room, though, not with a chance to host the final and win the big one before New York City FC can put a team on the field.