The New York Red Bulls opened their season last weekend with a 3-1 road win against the San Jose Earthquakes. Goals from Patryk Klimala, Omir Fernandez, and Tom Barlow gave RBNY it’s third three goal season opener in five seasons. While expectations are still tempered for the season as a whole, the home opener on March 13 is still fast approaching.
Besides this though, the Red Bulls have 16 other home games this season. Like most other professional sports teams, the team has a few dates specially marked with promotions to drive in additional fans. Some of these are themes, some are giveaways, and some are both. The games where the team “rewards” you for attending are some of the best ones to go to, especially for casual fans. In the spirit of getting excited for the 2022 season, we’ve created a list of the games you should circle on your calendars.
Three “theme nights” won’t be mentioned in this article since they don’t have a specific item listed as a “giveaway”. However, on a personal note, the first two are almost certainly must-attend as the organization does put a lot of effort into them. The Autism Awareness efforts and Pride Night festivities are always class, though I wish the latter wasn’t on a weeknight.
- Saturday, April 9 vs Montreal (Autism Awareness)
- Thursday, June 30 vs Atlanta (Pride Night)
- Saturday, July 30 vs Colorado (Fireworks Night)
Saturday, May 7 vs Portland (Star Wars Night, Bobblehead)
When the defending MLS Western Conference champions come to Harrison, you take notice. If they’re coached by a former MetroStars legend, you circle the date. Finally, if the game is probably the biggest giveaway of the year, it should be a must-attend match.
The first 7,500 fans in attendance will receive an exclusive RBNY x Star Wars bobblehead courtesy of Provident Bank. The characters/players and design of the figure haven’t been revealed. In retrospect, the Yankees’ 2018 Star Wars inspired bobblehead is still one of the best crossovers the team has done. The Mets have followed suit with similar items in 2018 and 2019 and they’re also stellar (featuring Robinson Cano and Mr. Met respectively). When a team has the Star Wars license, the final product is almost always worth it.
Considering what attendance figures were like for the team in 2021 this is about half of an averagely attended game. It could honestly necessitate getting to the arena a few hours early just to make sure you snag one.
It’s not like there won’t be things to do while you wait for the gates to open. The team also announced Star Wars activities will be happening in the BULLevard. Plus characters will be around for photos both outside and in the arena itself.
This is all going into the fact that the game itself should be a great one. Portland is coming off an appearance in the MLS Cup Final. Despite losing a fair amount of talent, Giovanni Savarese’s squad is always going to be a threat. New York has won the last two meetings but those came in 2018 (4-0) and 2019 (2-0) (not counting pre-season). Also on a side note, Portland has a fantastic away kit this season that will be awesome to see in person.
Sunday, July 17 vs NYCFC (Scarf Giveaway)
With MLS getting back to normal form, that means the Hudson River Derby is back to being a two game affair (minus any U.S. Open Cup or playoff matches). New York City FC lost the rivalry last year in excruciating fashion, behind two late comebacks by RBNY. However, winning the team’s first MLS Cup more than made up for it, especially in bragging rights.
Despite losing it’s season opener last weekend to LA Galaxy, City has had an overall solid opening to 2022. The team won in convincing fashion in the CONCACAF Champions League Round of 16 by a 6-0 aggregate score. A quiet offseason meant a lot of departing players, including homegrown James Sands to Rangers, but there’s still enough to threaten for top Eastern Conference placement. Brazilian center-back Thiago Martins is also joining a backline that already includes MLS mainstay defender Maxime Chanot.
The afternoon contest It’s also going to be a huge giveaway for fans. The first 10,000 fans to enter Red Bull Arena will receive a scarf. In past years, these types of promotions have been for a summer scarf and seeing as how the game is in the middle of July it would make sense that this is the case.
— Red Bulls Nation (@RdBullNationNYC) May 19, 2019
In terms of numbers at 10k, only one other promotion this season has that many fans in mind. It makes sense though that the team’s biggest rivalry match of the year gets the promotion with the most fans in mind. Does that mean you need to get to the stadium right when gates open? I doubt it. However, this is a perfect game for an average fan to attend. The atmosphere is going to be electric and the giveaway is a solid addition to any fan’s scarf collection.
Saturday, August 20 vs Cincinnati (Bucket Hat Giveaway)
In terms of opponent quality, fans can’t really do worse than FC Cincinnati. The team that has finished at the bottom of the MLS standings every year of its existence is hoping 2022 signifies some change. With former USMNT star (& RBNY alumni) Chris Albright signing on as general manager in the offseason, there’s some reason to have hope things could be a little better. New head coach Pat Noonan has attempted to retool the squad including bringing in Júnior Moreno from DC United.
If fans somehow aren’t interested in watching a rebuilding FCC side, the Bulls’ Bucket Hat giveaway might be enough. The first 7,500 fans to enter receive a hat that screams; “I don’t care what other people think about me, I know what I like.” In all honesty, fans who arrive just before kickoff will probably still be able to snag one of these hats.
Saturday, August 27 vs Miami (90’s Fireworks + Fanny Pack)
Only one week after the Cincy game, The Red Bulls will conclude a two-game homestand by hosting Inter Miami CF. While fans will be hoping for a better outcome than last July’s rainout, the team has once again designated Inter as a theme night game. Unlike last year’s Pride night, this one’s is focus is more on Nostalgia.
For the second time this season, the team will have post game fireworks for fans to enjoy. However, this one comes billed as “90s Fireworks Night”. While that may not affect the colorful explosions in the sky, it does mean the first 7,500 fans in attendance will take home a fanny pack. If any fan wants to complete their RBNY themed Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson cosplay, this is a must have piece.
In terms of the game, Inter Miami is a weird one. When team owner David Beckham is publicly saying the team hasn’t lived up to expectation, it almost makes the upcoming season a bit more “dire”. The signing of USMNT star DeAndre Yedlin is going to be a huge selling point on this team’s future. Second-year head coach Phil Neville will need to work with a squad that has more name recognition than last year’s sanction riddled squad.
Former Miami loan and current Bull defender Andrés Reyes will almost certainly be back in the fold for this match though.
Saturday, October 9 vs Charlotte (Fan Appreciation – T-shirt)
Decision Day 2022 is not going to matter for Charlotte FC. Team manager Miguel Ángel Ramírez has already told everyone as much when his response to a question on team readiness was “We’re screwed”. While Charlotte didn’t look terrible in defeat to DC United, 3-0, last weekend it’s still not looking great for them. Outside of well attended home games, this team is not going to be fun to watch.
The first 10,000 fans into the arena for the final game of the regular season will receive a t-shirt, courtesy of Horizon Blue Cross Blue Shield of New Jersey. Last season’s event saw plenty of Bull Shop deals, merchandise giveaways around the arena, and a few other pleasant surprises. Perhaps the team will bull another ceremony out like it did last season for broadcasters Steve Cangialosi and Shep Messing?
If this wasn’t the final game of the regular season, it honestly could be considered skippable. However, if New York is able to fight for the thirteenth straight season it will be worth it. Decision Day is always a treat with constant scoreboard watching.