NY Red Bulls vs Barcelona game could benefit MLS the most

HARRISON – Greg Williams “never thought” that his children, Hunter and Harper, would have to choose which of their favorite football teams to support at Red Bull Arena. The Williams family had attended a few games each season before the COVID pandemic.

They were back at RBA on Saturday. But the Major League Soccer team didn’t get first place at home.

Eight-year-old Hunter Williams wore a red Red Bulls youth programs t-shirt. But Greg Williams wore a Barcelona shirt and had a bright blue Barcelona shirt in his son’s size waiting for him if he chose to change his allegiance.

Hunter Williams plays for the Ridgewood Maroons but the family have watched many Barca games at home. His favorite players are former Barcelona striker Lionel Messi – now with Paris Saint-Germain – and former Red Bulls goalkeeper Luis Robles, who used to live in town.

Fans filled the parking lot and PATH trains ahead of Saturday’s friendly. Barcelona’s vertical red, black and royal blue stripes could be seen in every corner of the sold-out Harrison Arena, although the visiting team took to the pitch in mustard jackets, shorts and zipped socks .

Barcelona striker Ousmane Dembele dribbles the ball during the first half of a soccer game against Juventus at the Cotton Bowl on Tuesday, July 26, 2022 in Dallas.  The match ended in a 2-2 draw.  (AP Photo/Jeffrey McWhorter)

Barcelona striker Robert Lewandowski received the biggest applause during the presentations. But Red Bulls and Barca fans shared the appreciation of former midfielder Thierry Henry, who took to the pitch for the opening draw in a half and half shirt.

Striker Osmane Dembélé and Memphis Depay scored in Barcelona’s 2-0 win on Saturday. Dembele ran on a through ball in the 40th minute. Depay added an insurance goal three minutes from time.

“It’s great for our game,” said Red Bulls general manager Marc de Grandpré, who lives in Bergen County with his family. “That says a lot about (Major League Soccer) about our stadium and our facilities. The experience we provide our fans is second to none. These big foreign clubs know that and they want to be in the biggest media market in It seems be a complex equation, but it’s simple when you see what we offer at Red Bull Arena.”

Red Bulls manager Gerhard Struber has tried to get into the minds of Barcelona fans. He had discussed the potentially hostile crowd with the players beforehand.

“They have a lot of respect for what we have done on the pitch,” Red Bulls coach Gerhard Struber said. “We can see a full stadium, so many people. It would be perfect if we had that for our home games. It would be amazing for my boys. Maybe some fans find a good feeling, good times today, and think, “Maybe I’ll come back and watch the (Red) Bulls. Hopefully we’ll use this time to do a little promotion and hopefully they’ll come back.”

Rockaway's Daniel LaCourse and Monte Montelione and Montville's Alexandra Zivkovic tailgate before the Red Bulls' friendly against Barcelona on July 20, 2022 at Red Bull Arena.

But Daniel LaCourse, a Red Bulls season ticket holder from Rockaway, was less happy about having to pay $30 for a parking space – and an additional $30 to ensure he had enough space to set up a tent and a grill. Full size Cadac. Normally, parking in the private parking lot near Red Bull Arena is $20 per game with no additional tailgating fees.

The compromise was cheap tickets as part of the season pass.

“I love that there’s a pro football team so close to my house, 35 minutes away,” said LaCourse, who works for Simply Gourmet in Randolph. “I’m not a Barcelona fan, but it’s great to see Barcelona and I don’t have to pay extra. These people paid $200, $300, $400 for the seats.”

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It’s the end of Barca’s four-game pre-season tour, leading up to the season opener on August 13. The La Liga side crushed MLS foes Inter Miami; beat Real Madrid, 1-0, in Las Vegas; and tied Juventus, 2-2, at the Cotton Bowl in Dallas three days ago.

Jason Jones of Hamilton Township.  attended the Red Bulls-Barcelona friendly match with his daughters, Ariana and Cailyn, his wife Michelle and son Zachary, as well as around 60 Mercer FC players and coaches.

It’s the third time Barcelona have faced the Red Bulls, all wins for the Spanish club. The other two – in 2006 and 2008 – were played at the Meadowlands.

With current and former Red Bulls Aaron Long and Tyler Adams and Park Ridge goalkeeper Matt Turner likely to make the USA roster for the World Cup in Qatar this winter, and MetLife Stadium officially named host site when the World Cup returns to the United States in 2026, New Jersey soccer fans have plenty to cheer about. The 83,000-seat stadium shared by the National Football League’s Jets and Giants is considered one of the favorites to host the 2026 World Cup final.

“It’s allowed us to focus more on the whole world. We’re on world television tonight. Why not show what we have here in Harrison, New Jersey?” said Eric Salcedo of West New York, a Red Bulls fan since the inaugural season in 1996 and a season ticket holder since 2016.

“What people don’t understand is that when we have (international) teams here, they go home and tell their friends and family what it’s like to play here, and try to bring their friends to play in MLS. The goal is to tell players from other places, this is a good league to play for, regardless of the team.”

Jane Havsy is a storyteller for the Daily Record and DailyRecord.com, part of the USA TODAY Network. For full access to live scores, breaking news and analysis, subscribe today.

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