It has little to do with on the field set up, positional need or projected performance. The warnings made by knowledgeable and unknowledgeable soccer analysts and bloggers about his commitment, fitness and ability to play in Major League Soccer’s physical and athletically driven pace should be heeded.
He will likely not be the savior of the season. Coach Mike Petke will endure a number of sleepless nights attempting to crowbar him into the starting XI. It will be Juninho Pernambucano redux only on a massive scale.
But the Red Bulls almost have to do it.
Thierry Henry is set to retire and there is no one in the queue to fill the void next season… New York City FC’s first season. Some Red Bull season ticket holders and those that travel to a few matches a season will switch sides. Perhaps not completely giving their emotional allegiance, but rather their financial.
Depending on where you live in the Five Boroughs of New York City, the travel time can be an hour and half and require switching trains three times in order to reach RBA. A thirty minute, single switch ride to the Bronx is a much more appealing prospect. It won’t matter if there is a great view from the vast majority of seats at Red Bulls Arena. The only seating area comparable to what is expected at a soccer and American football stadium is behind both touchlines, the 1st and 3rd base sides at Yankee Stadium. Once fans buy a full or partial season package, NYCFC has them for the 2015 season, the Metro/Red Bulls’ 20th season.
Signing Ronaldihno will not win the battle in the boroughs. Logistics will trump all when it comes to the casual fans or the busy professionals, tight on time and on a financial budget. Case in point, I had season ticket package to the New Jersey Nets during their final season in the Garden State. I have never been to the Barclay Center in Brooklyn.
Bringing Ronaldihno will win the war in Red Bulls’ backyard. Around Red Bulls Arena is one of the largest Brazilian populations in the country, and those families are currently not going to Red Bull games. There is also a strong South American, Portuguese and Spanish community have been watching European football before it was cool. It is difficult to say the casual sports fans will show up, as even area Arsenal supporters don’t come out to watch Henry, who even at 34 years old is playing at an MVP level.
Red Bulls the soccer organization, not the team on the field, need to recognize reality. They are the New York club in name only. If the New Yorkers aren’t locked in by now, they never will be. It is easy for a marketing executive to propose a multi-million dollar advertising campaign in NYC. If you failed, the excuse is we were few million short and soccer doesn’t sell.
For the Red Bulls as an organization to focus inward to the surrounding community that love soccer is a hard sell. However, the community only a mile away from the arena, actually close down the streets, with massive gatherings of fans during the World Cup, Euro Cup and Copa America. The regions of Northern and Central Jersey produce players for the RBNY youth systems, some of which will be on the field at Red Bulls Arena Saturday night as the RBNY U-23 play for the NPSL Championship.
The addition of Ronaldihno may lose the Red Bulls the battle on the field this season, but may win them the war off it.