In recent years, on past pre-season tours of North America, we have played a number of MLS sides including Seattle Sounders, DC United and LA Galaxy. Tomorrow evening, when the Blues take to the field at the Red Bull Arena for the first game of the 2015/16 campaign, we will face new opposition.
Here, as the team touch down in New York, the official Chelsea website provides a brief history of New York Red Bulls and looks at what we can expect from them tomorrow night…
The New York/New Jersey MetroStars were created as the Big Apple’s franchise MLS team in its inaugural season back in 1996.
Early acquisitions included Tab Ramos and Tony Meola, members of the USA squad at their home World Cup two years earlier, as well as Roberto Donadoni, the experienced Italian midfielder from AC Milan. He began a long line of marquee signings that have enjoyed varying degrees of success in New York.
Other players that more than made their mark in Europe and represented the club either early or late on in their careers include Lothar Mattheus, Youri Djorkaeff, Tim Howard, Tim Cahill, Juan Pablo Angel, Rafael Marquez and, most recently, Thierry Henry. The former Arsenal striker retired last season after four-and-a-half years at the Red Bulls.
In their 19 seasons to date the club have only failed to qualify for the MLS Cup play-offs (which aggregates the best six teams from the Eastern and Western Conferences) on four occasions, and only once since 2002. However, they have only reached the MLS Cup final once, when they lost to Columbus Crew in Los Angeles seven years ago. They did win the Supporters Shield, given to the side that has accrued the most points over the regular league season, in 2013.
The history of the club changed forever when the energy drinks company Red Bull bought the franchise in 2006. New York Red Bulls were born as the MetroStars tag was dropped.
From 1996 to 2009 the club’s home ground was the Giants Stadium in East Rutherford, New Jersey, the venue for our 1-0 victory over AC Milan 10 years ago this month. In 2010, they moved into the purpose-built Red Bull Arena in Harrison, New Jersey. The 25,000-capacity stadium is regularly sold out for MLS matches.
Under current coach Jesse Marsch, a 14-year veteran of MLS as a player, the team usually adopt a 4-2-3-1 formation with former Charlton and Southampton striker Bradley Wright-Phillips – Shaun’s half-brother - as the spearhead. He was topscorer in MLS last season and also leads the Red Bulls’ scoring charts this campaign having struck eight goals in 18 appearances. His six assists so far showcase his creative ability, too.
In fact, the Red Bulls are at their best when Wright-Phillips links up with a former teammate of his at the Valley, Lloyd Sam, and another attacker who spent time in England’s second tier, Mike Grella. Sam is a two-footed winger comfortable on either side while Grella often features in the no.10 role.
The ex-Leeds man scored a fine individual effort in the Red Bulls’ 2-0 win at Orlando City the weekend just gone. Another close-season signing, Sacha Klejstan from Anderlecht, opened the scoring with a brilliant 25-yarder. They are currently third in the Eastern Conference, six points off leaders DC United, with 19 games played. Another MLS play-off appearance beckons.
Today (Tuesday) the Red Bulls lost to Philadelphia Union on penalties in a US Open quarter-final tie following a 1-1 draw in which Sam netted the hosts' goal. Wright-Phillips and Sam both missed their spot-kicks.