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April 23, 2012
Supporters get D.C. rivalry, players don't

The Red Bulls had very little passion against D.C. United on Sunday night.
The Red Bulls had very little passion against D.C. United on Sunday night.
Linda Cuttone/Sports Vue Images
By Kristian R. Dyer Contributing Editor

Sadly, the effort off the field was far better than that which the Red Bulls put forth in Sunday nightís 4-1 loss at D.C. United.

The game, where the visitors fell behind 3-0 before halftime, was a disaster. The entire backline was a mess, the team showed little discipline and once they fell behind in the eighth minute there seemed to be no resolve or fight. If only New York had matched the intensity of the fans that seem to care more about the team then the players do.

Roughly 200 traveling supporters, the bulk coming from the Empire Supporters Club, Viking Army and the Garden State Ultras made the nearly five-hour trip down to RFK Stadium for the match. Even if it isnít called ďRivalry DayĒ on the teamís website, D.C. United away is the biggest match of the year for the supporters against this clubís biggest rivalry.

Those fans deserve a refund from the Red Bulls organization for their tickets and travelling expense.

There is intensity and passion from these fans, who bussed and caravanned and took the train down to support their team, their club. Many of them undoubtedly left with voices hoarse after 90 minutes of chanting and singing, drained from jumping and supporting even as the rain fell and the D.C. United goals came like a deluge. There was unquestioned effort from the away support, who could be heard on the nationally televised broadcast.

Too bad not one-tenth of one percent of that emotion, passion of desire to win filtered from the stands to the rain-logged field.

There isnít a talent deficiency on this Red Bulls team, one would be hard-pressed to find better credentials or star power in MLS. The Starting XI is dotted with former and current European internationals including two former Barcelona regulars and players who have represented their national teams. The head coach boasts European pedigree and success and the organization is one that has done everything first class for its players. Red Bull Arena is a gem and the jewel of MLS stadiums.

But without love, without passion what happens is what the team fans witnessed on Sunday.

Listless. Lethargic. Lazy.

Lacking conviction and clarity in play, the Red Bulls showed up not for the club, not for each and not for the fans. Quite simply, they didnít show up at all.

And itís a disgrace that in a game that means so much to the fans - dating back to that playoff series in 1996 - which the team that purchased the MetroStars legacy also has failed to buy its backbone. Even in their worst of seasons, including the dreadful 7-25 mark in 1999, this franchise has never failed to put forth an effort against their biggest rivals. There were lopsided matches, for sure, but there was always a reason to applaud the team as they walked off the pitch. At least they tried, even if they werenít any good.

The players have gotten it over the years - that D.C. United is more than a game. It is a reason for hate. Over the years even outmanned as they so often were, the players still went out and represented something about the rivalry in their play. They scrapped and hustled against a team they too hated or at least seemed to hate. But now in the hours after the debacle at R.F.K., it is apparent that the effort just simply wasnít there from New York.

Chalk it up to poor coaching, precious little leadership on the field or a team of imports who simply donít get what this game meant to the 200 travelling supporters in what is their biggest game of the year. There is only one thing sweeter to a Red Bulls fan than cheering on a win over D.C. and thatís cheering on a team that actually cares that theyíre playing New Yorkís biggest rival.

They got the chance to do neither on Sunday.

An ocean away, former New York striker Jozy Altidore, nearly four years removed from his time with the club, sent out a simple tweet before the match. In 32 characters, Altidore summed up what the 11 players on the field simply didnít get on Sunday afternoon. Altidoreís tweet was short and sweet: ďRBNY must beat DC scum today! #RivalryĒ

And on Sunday evening as the Red Bulls players walked off the field, perhaps they finally understood what Altidore, watching in the Netherlands, apparently still gets. This is a rivalry, though five hours apart, that is true and sincere and fuels this New York club through the ups and downs. Itís the same thing that will bring those 200 supporters back down to RFK Stadium against next year, too.

Hopefully next time to cheer on a team that gets it.

Follow Kristian R. Dyer on Twitter @KristianRDyer
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