RBNY forward Fabio holds back Sporting Kansas City midfielder Remi Walker on opening night at Red Bull Arena (Credit: Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports)

For the first time since March 2020, fans in Harrison were able to watch the New York Red Bulls in-person. For 60 minutes they saw their team open the new season as a dominant offensive force. In the end, a five-minute defensive collapse saw them lose, 2-1, to Sporting Kansas City.

That one goal came from a comedically impressive Caden Clark shot. The Minnesota native scored his third goal in MLS off a crisp looking scissor kick. A ball headed between opposing players comes right to Clark, who snaps his leg up at just the right time to slam it into the net. The absolute pop of the crowd just when the ball connected with his foot, let alone when it hit the netting, is the feeling every Red Bulls fan had been waiting for in the new season. The South Ward was beating their drums and Shep Messing was commentating in his usual way; almost or always yelling with every sentence.

Man I missed that.

For most of the game, it felt like that goal wasn’t going to be the lone score for New York. In an impressive show of force the team’s offense and Gerhard Struber’s diamond midfield kept the ball out of Sporting’s possession. There were a few spurts of high offense from the visitors but overall the game belonged to the home team. Recent loan acquisition Andrew Gutman had a stellar first 45 on the left wing as well, consistently breaking up KC’s offense and pushing plays up to waiting midfielders like Clark and Cristian Cásseres Jr..

It was great! Until it wasn’t.

An errant handball by Gutman and a defensive collapse by the backline, notably Kyle Duncan, allowed Gadi Kinda to nail a penalty and Dániel Sallói to tap in the winning goal respectively, all within the span of four minutes. What was looking like a good first game for Carlos Coronel turned into a meh performance. After that, Struber and his squad failed to play from behind and the offensive push cooled down. The manager later admitted the subbing off of Youba Diarra early in the second half was the moment his team “lost focus”. While he doesn’t think he can go a full 90 minutes yet for RBNY, his poor challenge late in the first half that netted him a yellow card is more likely the reason why he came off so soon.

So, the Red Bulls came out hot at home and in the end disappointed. Is it all for not? Well, fans still came out in numbers on a chilly Saturday night. The 15% of RBA’s capacity felt like it was at least half full. The new Supporter’s Section, with it’s standing room only, looked great. With all the new safety precautions in place fans can feel some form of confidence when they attend games, either MLS ones or NY/NJ Gotham FC ones (the recently renamed Sky Blue FC of the NWSL)!

The loss is still a loss and there are no moral victories, but it does make me excited to get back into the Arena soon.

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