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Major League Soccer

4 Thoughts on New York Red Bulls' Crazy Town Hall

Step One: Fire a beloved coach, a local celebrity with longstanding ties to the club—despite his track record of success. Step Two: Call a town hall to appease angry fans. Step Three: Inhale the madness.
BY Ben Jata Posted
January 21, 2015
2:12 PM
BY NOW YOU'VE PROBABLY SEEN or heard at least a portion of the debacle that was last Friday’s town hall meeting between the New York Red Bulls front office (and goalkeeper Luis Robles) and a large portion of season ticket holders/supporters to discuss the recent and unexpected firing of former head coach Mike Petke. If you haven’t yet seen the footage, click below.

As others have already pointed out, the meeting was a fiasco, with several fans chiming in whenever they felt like it and demanding answers from the club’s new Sporting Director, Ali Curtis, Marc de Grandpre (head of commercial operations), and the new head coach Jesse Marsch. Yes, the meeting was a disaster, but there were a couple positives to take away from it as well. Here are four things I found somewhat intriguing from this urban sideshow.

1. Ali Curtis got butchered

Curtis was doomed from the get-go. Audience members were furious, lashing out at him as if he were a teenage boy who just got caught stealing money from the church offering plate. This was expected, but Curtis did literally nothing to help his cause.

Curtis spoke softly, raising his voice slightly a few times when boisterous fans prevented him from finishing a sentence. His answers lacked credibility and he was criticized for dancing around most of the questions. Not sure how much he could’ve done to improve his standing among the fans in attendance, but taking a more direct and/or sincere approach might’ve been the better move.

2. Luis Robles saves the day

Initially it appeared as if Robles was there strictly to parry away the continuous wave of shots fired at the Red Bull front office, but he quickly made it clear that he chose to attend.

Robles was charismatic and genuine with his comments, addressing fans that both complimented his work on the field in 2014 and those who vowed to no longer show up and support the team at Red Bull Arena in 2015. He exhibited very strong leadership qualities, something Red Bulls really need now that Thierry Henry is gone and the team's promising backup goalkeeper, Ryan Meara, has been loaned to New York City FC.

Luis Robles came up big on the day, something we’ll probably be saying again and again when the MLS season gets underway in March.

3. Jesse Marsch boosted his stock

Marsch absorbed quite a bit of doubt and backlash before addressing the crowd initially, but once he started talking all of that quickly went away. He was strong, confident, concise, sincere, and optimistic. He exuded all the qualities you wanted to see from a new manager placed in this overwhelmingly awkward position.

When he spoke, people listened. Some of them really listened. He used his microphone time wisely and offered fans a bit of relief despite their vitriol. He gave Red Bulls fans a bit of hope. Only time will tell what becomes of Marsch as a coach in Harrison, N.J., but for a man who had been on the job just 10 days prior to this meeting, he couldn’t have done much more to help his cause.

4. NYRB fans plead for a Star

Big-name MLS signings are coming fast and furious these days, including Jozy Altidore, Sebastian Giovinco, Steven Gerrard, Frank Lampard, Kaka, and David Villa. The problem? None of these athletes play for the Red Bulls. While New York City FC and the Los Angeles Galaxy and even Orlando City SC are adding stars to their rosters, the New York Red Bull just lost the greatest player ever to wear an MLS jersey.

And fans clearly want some celebrity talent to go with their MLS Cup ambitions.

One fan in particular called out to Curtis, pleading that the team sign some sort of galactico immediately. In smaller markets—Real Salt Lake for example—the "team is the star" mentality is perfectly acceptable, but in New York and L.A. that just doesn't fly. These people want their golden boy. They want that dynamic player. They need him. And no, 35-year-old Tim Cahill doesn't qualify—not anymore.

What do you think? Are these Red Bulls fans just being whiners? Are they right to challenge Curtis and demand big-name talent? Give us your take below

Ben Jata is a freelance writer and occasional contributor to ASN. Follow him on Twitter.

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