Gas in the USA

Over the summer I went to the states on holiday and as I’ve only seen Bristol Rovers play I thought it would be good to see how the MLS compares to the English game. So I went watch the New York Red Bulls vs the Portland Timbers at the Red Bull Arena.


The first thing that struck me was outside the stadium they had lots of games setup for kids like 3-a-side pitches and football tennis. They had a DJ on and some blokes doing football skills too. It felt a bit like a summer party than the build up to a football

As the crowd built up there were lots of families and a much better mix of home and away fans with LOTS of them dressing up in costumes of their teams colours. The Portland fans dressed up as lumberjacks in green were putting on a great show.

As the stadium is relatively new it was easy to get some food and a beer and it was very easy to get to my seat which had a great view of the pitch. I was hoping to sit next to a Red Bulls fan for a chat, but I ended up next to a Peterborough fan unfortunately! In fact before the game I saw a Wimbledon, Arsenal, Celtic and a Barnsley shirt along with the usual array of shirts from top European teams. I wasn’t hugely surprised as walking round NYC I saw lots of tourists and like me some were going to be curious about the MLS.

I got to my seat about 25 minutes before kick off after being searched by security (I got this everywhere in NYC so I’m assuming this isn’t standard practice for the MLS). The stadium was only about a third full at this point, but as people were filing in it was filling up.

Sitting there listening to the Portland Timbers fans sing (they didn’t stop all game to be fair to them) I realised all the stadium announcements were a mixture of adverts, announcing the various partners of New York Red Bulls and offers of ‘upgrading your experience’. 

The last of those really struck me. They were advertising a service where you could go online pay extra money to get a better seat and some food and drink. I think the bit that got me the most was the word ‘experience’. The club wasn’t selling a ticket to support your team, it was an experience similar to going to the cinema or a day on the racetrack in a sports car. The level of commercialisation in the MLS is incredible compared to lower league football in England. I know the Premier league is a law unto itself which seems to be going in the same direction which makes me fearful this will trickle down into the lower leagues.

As kick off approached the stadium filled up a bit more and the teams were announced. The two English players on the pitch were Shaun Wright-Phillips for the Red Bulls and Liam Ridgewell for the Timbers. The latter was absolute class for the 90 minutes. The former not so much.

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The game itself wasn’t a great standard, I reckon Rovers could have given either team a good game. The pace was a lot slower than games I’ve seen in England and there were no crunching tackles either. Technically both teams were decent, but build up slow was very slow and no one wanted to shoot from outside the six yard box. In fact both teams were guilty of overworking the ball before shooting which meant defenders had lots of opportunities to get blocks in. The full time result was 0-0 which I think was fair.

The crowd too (aside from the Timbers fans singing) didn’t seem overly interested. There were no abusive shouts towards any of the players or the ref (unless you count ‘ref you suck’) and when a team was attacking there wasn’t the usual buzz that builds as the attack pushes on. The only time the crowd seemed to react was just after a chance was missed.

The songs that I heard weren’t especially funny or witty, but one Timbers song did make me chuckle:

Over there it’s so quiet (shhhhhh),

Over here its a riot (wheyyyyy),

Walking in a Timbers wonderland

In the lulls in the game I looked round the crowd and I noticed that people were arriving well after kick off. In fact a family came in and sat a few seats away from me after 30 minutes and another couple came in after 60 minutes and sat down a few rows down from me. I’m still in a state of shock that they came in so late and it seems to me that it’s the done thing judging by the amount of people that were doing it.

All in all I enjoyed my day out at the Red Bulls, but give me Rovers any day!

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