By Sylvana Budesheim // @WhiteZinWench
It was a sunny and brisk day in Harrison, appropriate for late February. The wind blew across the Passaic River. Construction is ongoing in the area surrounding Red Bull Arena as well as inside. New open-concept lounge areas are ready for fans, and convenience seats are being installed in the South Ward for any who need a break from the Safe Standing. Posters that wrapped walls in the arena, which featured the faces of players who have departed from the team, have been removed.
The casual observer might find these physical changes simply superficial. Red Bull Arena has been around for 10 years and could use some changes. But while attending Media Day, it became clear that the shift goes deeper than that.
‘Cause you make me feel so brand new
I arrived in time to see a few minutes of open practice on the pitch. They then asked us to return to the press room while the team finished their scrimmages. It was while we waited for manager Chris Armas that we received the news: Draftee Patrick Seagrist had been signed to an MLS contract.
A defender from Marquette University, Seagrist’s First-Round selection by the Red Bulls was an endorsement all its own. There was something about his presence that had me convinced the day he was drafted that he’d be in for the long haul. He clearly rose to the challenge in preseason, but this is only the beginning.
I’ll never be untrue
The alerts went off once again as we waited for Armas. Homegrown midfielder Sean Davis has been given the captain’s armband for the 2020 season. As far as I can tell, he is only the 2nd homegrown player* to captain an MLS team. Although he was named captain shortly before the formal announcement, it seemed a natural development. When Luis Robles, the previous captain, needed to get a message out to the players from goal, it often came through Davis. The Holmdel, NJ, native roomed with Robles for the past two seasons when they traveled. Indeed, he learned a lot from Sacha Kljestan and Dax McCarty, who had the armband prior to Robles.
“It’s an honor to even be talked about in that sort of company,” Davis said during Media Day interviews. All three have gone on to captain their subsequent clubs. “The main thing is to inspire the guys to have great performances week in and week out.”
Lovin’ you whether times are good or bad, happy or sad
With the major announcements out of the way, Armas met with the press. He beamed with pride and optimism. He spoke of togetherness and cohesion. When the little things are all in place, the big things come together as well. Improvement is the desired constant. MLS Cup the goal.
While he is happy to have Davis as captain, Armas’ philosophy shines through when he sees players like Tim Parker, Aaron Long, Daniel Royer, and Alejandro “Kaku” Romero Gamarra taking on leadership roles as well. With additions to the analytics department as well as a new Strength & Conditioning coach, “we’re adding really good pieces,” Armas said. The season is a marathon, not a sprint. It seems the key for Armas is to keep the team together no matter what.
Staying around you is all I see
Some good news for my #RBNYFood people: New players aren’t seen only on the field. I mentioned the concourse lounges earlier; Delaware North Sportservice is also adding to food options. I was able to sample a Loaded French Fry with beer cheese, Baja Shrimp Tacos and Deep Fried Brownie Bites.
Ya heard me.
Delaware North is also eliminating plastic bottles from the arena. Instead, fans can purchase souvenir cups that come with free refills. Only visiting one day? That’s cool. Visiting all season? There’s a cup for that, too. And with seven refill stations around the arena, fans are saving time and money.
But don’t give up on dollar hot dogs. Never, ever give up on dollar hot dogs.
Come on, let’s stay together
The season opener is Sunday, March 1st when RBNY welcomes FC Cincinnatti. A midday kickoff for the start of the 25th MLS season. Let them be the one you come running to.
*Wil Trapp for Columbus Crew. You didn’t think I was going to leave you hanging, did you?
Featured image: @NewYorkRedBulls
Follow and chat with me on Twitter // @WhiteZinWench