Fans at Red Bull Arena react as Luquinhas’ volley sails over the head of Toronto FC’s goalkeeper towards goal (Credit: John Perd)

Saturday night’s 2-0 win for the New York Red Bulls proved something. That a good ticket deal can fill seats no matter who is playing.

It seems weird to talk about this after a well fought win. New York’s roster depth was tested due to international call-ups, injuries, and suspensions. Late first half scares gave way to another highlight reel worthy goal by Luquinhas at home. After the match he even smiled when asked about it and why so many of his scores come from tricky angles.

“Goals like this usually also come with luck and I’ve had a lot on my side as well,” he explained in a post game press conference. “But also, the quality to know that when I see it, I have to hit it in.”

Lewis Morgan’s second minute goal meant he’s now scored four against Toronto this season. His hat-trick back in early March made headlines abroad and put the former Celtic player in the spotlight. But overall one of the bigger aspects of the game itself was the crowd.

It’s no secret that usually Red Bull Arena isn’t breaking attendance records year on year in Major League Soccer. Consistently, the team isn’t filling the 25,000 capacity arena and as recently as 2021 resorted to using tarps to cover up empty upper deck sections. However, Saturday’s game against Toronto FC pulled in a reported 19,000+ fans. In person, it felt like that too.

After covering RBNY for four seasons you’re able to pick up on crowd energy a little more. Post-Covid, even accounting for virus hesitancy and arena attendance caps, the past two years have been lacking. So in 2022 when more games are starting to feel active it stands out.

The game against Toronto had some interesting things going for it. A promotion with Topps trading cards saw a few hundred fans arrive early for a pregame “trading card experience” along with RBNY packs being given away. On the field, New York crushed Toronto in Canada earlier this year. Another home win was clearly on the table and fans who follow the team know that. Finally, it was the first game back after a long international break that was filled with big news for the league. MLS’s new streaming deal with AppleTV got plenty of eyes on the league but that sort of news doesn’t put buts in seats.

Instead, it feels like the biggest thing going for this match was FC Barcelona. The historic La Liga team is coming to Harrison on July 30th for a friendly. This is the first friendly between RBNY and a major international team in over half a decade.

Prior to the game RBNY began advertising a ticket package for the match. For $116 fans could get a ticket to see the Bulls play Toronto and a ticket to see next month’s friendly against Barcelona. Right now, the secondary market has tickets going for between $200 and $300 for upper-deck. With this deal, fans would only pay $75 for a single ticket to see the Spanish powerhouse next month.

It’s a great deal and something the team is trying again for this Wednesday’s Open Cup Quarterfinal. The game against New York City FC is also in-line for a two-ticket package for next month’s friendly. Either the number of tickets sold will pad the overall attendance figure of more casual fans might show up to both games for a cheap price. Even if Wednesday’s game is selling for face value ($30) in the package, the Barca ticket being under $100 is really worth it.

New York is attempting to fill seats for both games and it’s smart. Plus there was the usually ticket packages sold to local youth soccer programs. Those kids that hold up the flag or team banners on the field during pre-game have families. Those people count for seats and it all adds up in the end.

Hopefully Red Bull Arena will be somewhat packed on Wednesday night and more ticket packages are sold going forward for the friendly next month. The team is less fighting for a playoff spot and feels more like a postseason lock. More large crowds at home might be a good omen for continued success this season.

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