Red Bulls fans provide lift for club in D.C.
As he stepped onto the field for the first time as a professional, Marvell Wynne was nervous. But the New York Red Bulls rookie fullback looked up at the banners from D.C. United fans, including one that read "Red Bull gives us wins" and "Beef, it's what's for dinner" and couldn't help but laugh.
And then he turned and saw the fans, the 800 packed into five sections at RFK Stadium who took 16 buses south from Giants Stadium to see the game.
All of a sudden, the No. 1 overall pick in January's MLS SuperDraft wasn't so nervous.
"It was absolutely amazing," he said. "It relaxed me a little bit, gave me confidence, something more to play for."
The traveling support was something never seen before by even the most veteran Red Bulls players.
"Only in finals," goalkeeper Tony Meola said. "They were incredible."
"It was tremendous and it was good that the players went and acknowledged them," Red Bulls coach Mo Johnston said. "They were very vocal."
The party started at about 8 a.m. Sunday in a Giants Stadium parking lot. That's where the fans boarded buses bound for Washington for the first-ever Red Bulls game. It was then off to a tailgate party at a D.C. club and finally off to RFK, the entire bill footed by Red Bull New York.
"I've never seen it like that. It was a phenomenal display of the power and what it can be," Red Bulls president and general manager Alexi Lalas said. "Obviously, it was fabricated and it was a little artificial but the fact is that was what we were shooting for. I think when people see what it can be, then it will become much more organic and they'll take it upon themselves to organize the groups to come down and cheer.
"It was phenomenal to look up there and see an entire section cheering for the team at RFK."
After the glitz and glamour of the home opener this Saturday, with legends like Pele and Franz Beckenbauer before the game and Shakira and Wyclef Jean performing at halftime, what's next? A chartered flight for fans for the Fourth of July clash against the Los Angeles Galaxy at the Home Depot Center?
"We'll see what happens," Lalas said. "You can never predict what Red Bull is going to do."
As far as MLS debuts go, Wynne's first game went fairly well.
The son of former Major League Baseball player Marvell Wynne shook off some early nerves and shut down Freddy Adu in the first half before struggling with Alecko Eskandarian.
"I felt Marvell in the first half, Freddy didn't want any part of him," Johnston said. "I felt a little bit he got caught ball watching on the [first] goal but that's all right. He's a young kid who is growing and he's going to get better and better as he goes from strength to strength. Marvell in this locker room is very talented."
Wynne, who started on the right side of a back four that included center backs Jeff Parke and Taylor Graham with Carlos Mendes on the left, showed his tremendous pace in the first half when the former UCLA standout recovered well and wouldn't get beaten down the flank by Adu.
The best chances Adu had in the first half came when stayed clear of Wynne, like when he got behind the Red Bulls defense and forced Meola into a tough save in the final two minutes of the first half.
"I'm going to be assigned players like Freddy or bigger, stronger guys," Wynne said. "I believe I did well against Freddy and felt good for me as a player."
But in the second half, the former U.S. under-20 national team defender had his hands full with Eskandarian, who came on at halftime for midfielder Clyde Simms. And he was caught watching a Josh Gros cross that was buried into the net by Esky with a first-time volley in the 56th minute.
"I thought Marvell could have done a little bit better in terms of closing because when you play in a four, you can push on to him," Johnston said. "Again, we're going through growing pains."
Dylan Butler is a contributor to MLSnet.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Soccer or its clubs.