HARRISON, N.J. – Home-field advantage is something every team in every league strives for, but the New York Red Bulls want more this season.
They want to build a fortress.
After a 2011 season that saw them go 8-3-6 at home, the Red Bulls are hoping for an improved showing at Red Bull Arena this season. Not only do they want to record more wins this year, they want to be as difficult a road trip as there is in MLS.
“Every home game now, we need to make this a fortress,” Red Bulls head coach Hans Backe said. “Not just words, to be unbeatable at home.”
If that is their goal, the Red Bulls are off to a great start. New York put forth a dominant performance in their home opener last weekend as they beat the then-undefeated Colorado Rapids, 4-1. Thierry Henry and Kenny Cooper set the tone early, with both forwards scoring a goal in the opening six minutes.
New York now will look to repeat that type of dominant outing when the Montreal Impact pay a visit to Red Bull Arena on Saturday (4 pm ET, watch LIVE online, TSN/RDS in Canada) for the teams’ first MLS meeting.
The Red Bulls are adamant about not overlooking Jesse Marsch’s winless side, but they do want to continue to make a statement against the likes of Impact captain Davy Arnaud and Donovan Ricketts, reinforcing how difficult it will be to play at Red Bull Arena this season.
“It’s all about making this our arena,” defender Jan Gunnar Solli said. “No one is going to come here and think they can take the game. We have to be confident in our way of passing the ball and being direct. A lot of teams are probably going to come to stay low and wait for breaks, but that gives us a great opportunity to show everybody that we can still play good even when we have to play one or two-touch game, but we can do that.”
The Red Bulls did just that in the home opener, but it was not just the performance on the field that paved the way for the lopsided victory. The Red Bulls faithful that turned out for the match (a reported 21,024 fans) were rowdy from the opening whistle and that made for a hostile environment for the visiting Rapids.
“I thought it was a great atmosphere,” said Cooper, who spent last season with the Portland Timbers in front of a regularly rabid crowd at JELD-WEN Field. “It was my first taste of playing here as a home player on the home team. I was really impressed with the atmosphere with the fans behind the goal, they were really into the game, and the flags, smoke and everything.
“Everyone here really created a great atmosphere and it was fun to be a part of. Hopefully they continue to come out with every season game we have this year and create that same atmosphere.”
Franco Panizo covers the New York Red Bulls for MLSsoccer.com. He can be reached at Franco8813@gmail.com.