Red Bulls open new home in grand style

New York tops Brazil's Santos 3-1 in Red Bull Arena debut

Joel Lindpere Santos FC first goal

Photo Credit: 
Jonathan Fickies/Getty Images

Even the early-afternoon announcement that Major League
Soccer and the player's union had agreed on a deal to a new five-year
collective bargaining agreement couldn't overshadow the buzz Saturday
night outside the Red Bulls' new home.

As fans milled around outside the newest Mecca of soccer in the U.S., a
14-year pilgrimage which began in Giants Stadium ended with the Red
Bulls making themselves at home from the opening whistle in the
sparkling $200 million Red Bull Arena.

The Red Bulls dominated play for long stretches in front of a sold-out
crowd to christen their new stadium, culminating with a 3-1 win over
Brazilian squad Santos in the stadium's opening match.

The Red Bulls will open league play in their new home against the
Chicago Fire on March 27.

"Tonight was a special night," said veteran defender Mike Petke, who
scored the second of the hosts' three-goal outburst in the first half.
"But the season starts next week."

Both teams struggled with footing on the sod, which beaten up the last
week by torrential rain just a handful of days before the stadium's
opener.

In the 10th minute, however, the Red Bulls opened the seal on the
stadium thanks to Joel Lindpere. The Estonian international one-timed a
rebound off his own direct kick just outside the penalty box for the
club's first goal and an early 1-0 lead.

Petke got on the board in the 43rd minute, when he finished off a
scramble that started with a corner kick from the newly acquired Carl
Robinson. The former Toronto FC midfielder sailed his corner ball to a
streaking Tim Ream, who headed the ball to Petke before the captain
pounded it home for a 2-0 lead.

The hosts finished off the half with a brilliant strike from the top of
the box from an on-rushing Dane Richards. Mac Kandji picked up the
assist on Richards' goal after Sinisia Ubiparipovic streaked up the left
side and found Kandji open in the attacking third.
The second half inevitably turned into the Bouna Coundoul show, with the
athletic goalkeeper making two sprawling saves within a minute of each
other in the opening 10 minutes.

"If the defense plays like that every week, I won't complain at all,"
Coundoul said.

A late goal in stoppage time by Santos' Germano failed to derail the
evening for the Red Bulls, who savored the night as a seminal moment for
the franchise.

As substitutes worked their way into the field in the second half, the
Red Bulls' play hardly suffered. At one point in the half as the Red
Bulls kept possession, the yellow-clad Brazilian fans began the chant of
"Olé" as the home side almost effortlessly kept possession.

"It was a sign that we were playing well," Richards said. "Hopefully,
they all come back."

If Saturday's deal between MLS and the players' union is any indication,
they will. The two sides came to an agreement on the Collective
Bargaining Agreement that will avoid a work stoppage before Thursday's
season opener, meaning the 2010 season will continue as scheduled.