jeff kasakyan

06 May 11:35 am

If you’ve ever been to a match at Red Bull Arena you’ve probably seen (and heard) the large group of fans behind one of the goals singing, chanting, jumping up and down, and supporting the Red Bulls for the full 90 minutes. Those passionate supporters form the "South Ward" at Red Bull Arena. On Saturday night, I experienced the mayhem of Red Bulls fanaticism up close.

When I arrived at New York City's Herald Square late Saturday afternoon the setting was a calm, typical weekend day in Manhattan. People sat on park benches, tourists strolled by carrying shopping bags and taking pictures of the various sights and of course the consistently clogged New York City traffic slowly rolled by. However, in the next hour the typical Saturday in Midtown would be turned on its head.

The first Red Bulls supporters started to slowly pour in. Before long there was a large crowd gathered wearing various Red Bull jerseys, t-shirts, scarves and any other form of Red Bulls colors. A small group of Chelsea fans made their way over to the Square as well, decked out in blue and singing songs in toast to their club’s FA Cup victory earlier that day. The various supporters groups that make up the South Ward at Red Bull Arena (Empire Supporters Club, Viking Army, and Garden State Ultras) carry various tools of their own, but it’s clear that all are united behind their support of one club.

In the shadow of the Empire State Building, the march is set to begin. Red and white flags are raised, a drum is readied, and voices are rising.

“The whole park sings with us, the whole park sings with us,” starts the familiar chant, adapted slightly for the day’s surroundings, followed as usual by a loud “Let’s Go Red Bulls” chant. Even the Chelsea fans started to join in.

As the crowd moves down 33rd Street towards the Football Factory at Legends, traffic moves by even slower than usual, as people roll down their car windows, gawking at the curious scene. Tourists, who just moments earlier were gazing at the Empire State Building, now turn their cameras to the spectacle unfolding on behalf of the Red Bulls supporters. One thing that no one can deny about Red Bull supporters: They. Are. LOUD.

I spoke with two tourists, who said they were around the corner on Fifth Avenue and could hear the supporters from there before making their way over, curious as to what was going on. While they had only a passing familiarity with MLS and the Red Bulls, they came away impressed with the support, saying the fans had “great energy”.

The chants and songs continue: “For you, for you, we’ll be singing a song. All day, all day, we’ll be singing a song. And when we win, we’ll be singing a song.”

“As long as I’m breathing, I’ll sing for the Red Bulls, when we’re winning or when we’re losing. We are your people, we’ll always follow. We’re always behind you, that you can count on.”

Those are just a couple of the staples of the South Ward song book that the supporters broke out for the march and well through the night as the viewing party commenced at the Football Factory. And of course, there were a couple of anti-L.A. songs mixed in as well to get in the proper mood for the night’s match against the Galaxy.

As the march simmered down and the supporters began filing into Legends to watch the match, the “Let’s Go Red Bulls” chant began again, this time with the prelude, “The whole street sings with us, the whole street sings with us.”

By the end of the night it’s clear: Whether a park, a street, a bar; wherever there are Red Bulls supporters, their unbridled passion and energy will transform any typical venue into the sights and sounds of Red Bull Arena.

For the full 90 minutes of the Red Bulls' 1-0 victory over the Galaxy, it felt as if Red Bull Arena had been moved to West 33rd St. in New York.

The South Ward supporters certainly left their mark on New York Saturday.

New York is our home.

02 May 4:43 pm

New York Red Bulls’ South Ward supporters are famous for bringing the noise for 90 minutes every match at Red Bull Arena. This Saturday, May 5, they will take their show across the river when they shut down the streets of New York for a pre-match march through midtown Manhattan.

Supporters from the Empire Supporters Club, Garden State Ultras, and Viking Army will gather at 5 PM at Greeley Square Park where to begin their march -- singing, chanting and beating drums -- before turning east on West 33rd Street and ending at The Football Factory at Legends (6 West 33rd St.). West 33rd St. will be closed to traffic from 5-6 PM ET.

After the march, Legends will be transformed into the South Ward for the night as the soccer hotspot hosts a viewing party for the Red Bulls’ away match with the Los Angeles Galaxy at 8:00 PM ET (ESPN, ESPN Deportes).

Supporters under the age of 21 will be allowed on the main floor at Legends but will have to leave after full-time.

The South Ward at Red Bull Arena comprises sections 133, 101, and 102 and is home to some of the most passionate fans in the sport. The independent supporters clubs that make up the South Ward are known for their nonstop jumping, singing, chanting and flag waving, turning Red Bull Arena into a fortress for the Red Bulls.

Legends has hosted a number of Red Bulls viewing parties over the past two seasons, most notably the Red Bulls Sept. 17, 2011 viewing party, which has since gone on record as the most-attended viewing party in MLS history.

26 April 2:08 pm

Deviating from the norm at Montclair State University, the Red Bulls instead opted to spend Thursday's training session on the pitch at Red Bull Arena.

Following the team's workout, midfielder Dane Richards took a few minutes to catch up with to discuss the start of the season, the recent string of injuries and Saturday's match against New England.

There are a lot of guys missing from the team at the moment with injuries and more. What do the rest of the guys on the team have to do to step in and fill their places?

They have been watching the games and have been at practice, so they are aware of what’s going on. Just step in and do the same job and maybe even better. We’re looking forward to this week’s game and they have a chance to give the coach a tough time in selecting his 11.

The offense has been on fire so far this season. With so many starting defenders out of action now, how important is it for the offense to continue to carry the team through this stretch?

Well, the good thing is we are at home. When we are at home we just got to go at the next team. The best way of defending is attacking. So, we just gotta go, press them, and just from the start go at the other team.

How do you feel the production has been from the wings so far this year?

Not the start we expected, but it’s just seven games. So, hopefully we can score some goals and get some more assists. Not a great start. We’re not putting up a lot of stats on the board, but we just got to work. It’s just seven games as I said before.

You guys have gotten off to some very quick starts at home this year. In the three home games so far, the team has scored three goals in the first ten minutes. How much does that help set the tone for the match and provide momentum for the team?

Definitely, once we get the early goals and the crowd is behind us, it’s an unbelievable feeling. Hopefully we can do it on Saturday, get the crowd behind us from the first 15 minutes and just keep trying to score more goals, put the pressure on the next team.

The New England Revolution come to town this week. It’s a rivalry game and obviously, they’re a team you’re very familiar with, having played them so often over the years. What are the keys to beating New England?

We know they’re a threat. They have Shalrie Joseph and a bunch of other players that are very dangerous. We just need to try to keep a clean sheet because we haven’t had a clean sheet all season. New England, I know has a different coach and different players and all of that. They’re definitely a threat. It’s always tough because it’s a rivalry so we just gotta take it as a rivalry game and just go at them. We know it’s going to be a tough game so we just gotta be confident, move forward and try to score some goals.

18 April 1:41 pm

More than 200 supporters came out to get their Red Bull jerseys, soccer balls and other gear signed by the squad in a team meet and greet with supporters yesterday at the Adidas Sport Performance Store in SoHo.

While MLS leading scorer and team captain Thierry Henry was the most sought after signature of the night, fans were also eager to meet other favorites from the squad including Dax McCarty, Jan Gunnar Solli and Mehdi Ballouchy.

“I love the New York Red Bulls”, said Victor Borges of Norwalk, CT, while he was waiting on line to meet the team. He said his favorite players were Henry and Mehdi Ballouchy but that he also has a soft spot for Dax McCarty because they both have red hair.

And it wasn’t just the veterans on the team who were big hits with the fans.

Defender Connor Lade, a rookie out of St. John’s University was surprised to see that one fan brought a picture of Lade from his St. John’s playing days, which Lade signed. “I wasn’t expecting that,” Lade said. “That was cool.”

Eric Yang, a Red Bulls supporter from Washington D.C. had just arrived in New York yesterday afternoon but came out for his only chance to catch the team while he’s in town. Yang said he was pleased with the team’s performance so far this season.

“Henry and Cooper are doing well; they’re gelling,” Yang said. “The future looks bright.”

While he will not be in town long enough to catch a game at Red Bull Arena, Yang said he was planning on making it out to the away game in D.C. this Sunday.

The passion and dedication of the Red Bulls fan base, which supports the team both at home and on the road was not lost on the players who said they enjoyed the chance to meet the fans who support the team week in and week out.

“This is awesome,” goalkeeper Ryan Meara said. “We get great fan support. At all the home games they turn out, so anytime we can come out and do something in return for them, I really enjoy it.”

“It’s a really cool event,” Lade said. “We love being part of all the people coming and supporting us. It’s nice that we can give back to them and have a really good time doing it.”

Make sure to check out more photos from the event on the official New York Red Bulls Facebook page.

12 April 2:34 pm

Defender Jan Gunnar Solli took a few minutes after Thursday's training session at Red Bull Arena to catch up on a few topics including team chemistry, the Red Bulls' attack, San Jose's offensive threats and his appreciation for the supporters who took the trip to Columbus.

So far, Thierry and Kenny have done a great job providing offense up top. What do you guys need to do to get offensive production from other areas of the field, specifically from the wings and wing backs?

It’s about finding the right balance between when one fullback goes the other one tucks in. Obviously we are defenders first. But when we are here at Red Bull Arena that’s where we would like to entertain and also to show that we can attack from different areas. That will be very important because our strikers have been on fire lately, but we can try to provide them with assists and make it easy for them to have a few tap-ins as well because some of the goals have been really, really good. Finding the right balance I think is the key.

The San Jose Earthquakes have an impressive striker of their own in Chris Wondolowski (6 goals, tied for 2nd in MLS). How is the team addressing the challenge of stopping him?

We know it’s a good team in form. The way they press us is they come on high even if they are away. It’s definitely a challenging way of getting into the game because usually you get in the front seat when we play in our Arena and the team drops back and waits to counter attack. Now it’s a little different game. They have a lot of confidence. They have more points than us but this is our home. I’m not going to talk about the whole plan but we have a good strategy to break their first line of defense. I’m pretty sure if we can come out with a ball they will have to chase us.

The Earthquakes are 4-1-0 this season and sit in second place in the Western Conference. How can the team build off the confidence you gained during this three-game winning streak against a tougher opponent this week?

We have been scoring a lot of goals which gives us a lot of confidence. The way we go into the game, we know it’s going to be a battle. There’s not going to be any nice play before you kind of dig into it. It’s all about the team spirit which I think has been phenomenal over the last couple of games. And that’s what we need to build and have the confidence that, this is our home and the way we believe in our strategy and our plan, and everybody moving in the same direction. It’s going to take a very good San Jose team to beat us. I think this team looks very hungry and that’s the way to continue.

With the offense running in high gear, I’m sure the guys also want to get that first clean sheet of the year. Can you talk about the play of the back four so far this season?

The last game I think it was one of those set plays that got into the back of the goal. The guy heading the ball, he had a very easy job to put it in, but obviously he’s a big guy too. I think we’ve stepped up our game in every aspect. Obviously the strikers are getting a lot of attention as we’ve been the hottest team in the league right now scoring the most goals. But yeah, everyone in the defense and our goalie would like to have a clean sheet for once and why not start against San Jose. But like I said, nothing can be won before you actually go into the battle and everybody works their shirt off and stays focused. Maybe that’s the key to keep a clean sheet, the way we communicate with each other and take responsibility in dangerous areas.

The team has gotten off to a good start at home this season. How has the team been able to feed off the fans at Red Bull Arena?

This arena is amazing. To have the fans here and our home crowd, you can definitely feel like MLS is on the rise and it’s getting more attention through every game. I know how it is with good results. Good results affect people and people want to come and see maybe one of the hottest teams in MLS right now. It’s not only the star players of our team which have been good but also I think we’re showing the team spirit which the crowd really appreciates. I’m very excited about playing home games. Also, I gave a big shout out on my Twitter to all the guys coming into Columbus who also stayed and watched our reserves play. It’s not all about the first XI players and the substitutes who enter every game. It’s also nice to see that there are actually true supporters who follow our reserves and I know they really appreciate it too because everyone wants to get noticed. That’s how we create and build a team and I think we’re definitely working in the right direction.

23 March 2:00 pm

The New York Red Bulls had two players named to the United States U-18 men’s national team roster announced today by the U.S. Soccer Federation.

New York Red Bulls Academy members’ goalkeeper Santiago Castano and midfielder Adam Najem were both named to the squad for a training camp that will take place from March 25 – April 1 at the Home Depot Center in Carson, CA.

Castano joined the Red Bulls at age 13 and has previously been called up to the U.S. U-14, U-15, U-17 and U-18 national teams. The Union City, N.J. native recently posted a shutout for the New York Red Bulls U-17/18 team in a 2-0 win against D.C. United.

Najem was most recently called up to the U.S. U-18 national team for a January camp. Najem has featured in eight games and scored seven goals for the New York Red Bulls U-15/16 team so far this season.