EDITORIAL: In a season with no expectations, New York Red Bull fans are bracing for the usual outcome
(photo by Matt Kremkau)
So. Here we go again.
For the twentieth-first time in twenty-five seasons and for the eleventh consecutive time in this franchise's history, they are in the MLS Cup Playoffs. Only this time, expectations for their success among the various experts, pundits, and supporters are low.
There are many reasons just why that is, but let's start with the obvious one. It's a sore subject among the die-hard followers of this franchise since its inception in 1996.
That reason can be best explained with the following sentence: "Twenty-five years. No cups".
Look, let's be honest here, I think a large percentage of fans would easily trade those three supporters' shields for MLS Cups at the drop of a hat, but that's not quite the point here. The MLS Cup Playoffs are widely considered a crap-shoot affair, meaning that the best team in the regular season isn't always the team that wins it all at the end.
And that's where the frustration lies among the Furious Faithful. Season after season, their championship dreams are dashed as yet another team other than their own are celebrating a cup win, and with that defeat, they face a long off-season of shame and, of course, pain.
Now, the Red Bulls are back in the playoffs for an eleventh consecutive time. Quite an accomplishment by the league standards and the expected objective has been achieved for interim head coach Bradley Carnell. But, they'll be facing a stout Columbus Crew team and a head coach in Caleb Porter, a man that knows how to win playoff games and cup championships.
The contrast in styles will be striking, of course. But the main question is this, will this crew and its raw talent and the high-pressing system will be enough to win it all, let alone survive and advance to the Eastern Conference final. Where two seasons prior, those aspirations evaporated in leg one in a galling 3-1 loss to eventual champions Atlanta United.
A loss that the supporters, to this day, are still angry about. As I said before, it's a sore subject. One that won't be forgotten unless it's their club is the last one standing at the final. But until that fateful day, hope springs eternal. And hope, like their patience, is steadily wearing thin.
On Saturday afternoon, they will find out if their season can be extended to another game, or it will come to yet another disappointing conclusion in Ohio's capital city. For a season that didn't have any expectations at the start, the New York Red Bulls' beleaguered supporters are bracing for the usual expectation at the end.