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Weekender: New York ... keeps it real?

A native of Chicago, the Weekender never knew Red Bulls fans actually existed.

Real Red Bulls fans. Real in the sense that Columbus Crew fans were always real. Chicago Fire fans were always real. Seattle Sounders fans were real from day one. Even Galaxy fans were real. They were in a Paul Rudd movie, so it must be so.

But Red Bulls fans? They were an ornery bunch of bridge-and-tunnelers who’d slipped into the MLS ether while new teams came along and spray painted electric green and cobalt on the league mural commissioned when Fredy Montero was still in grade school. They trudged to New Jersey and spent hollow summer nights at Giants Stadium, while every other team on the expansion radar promised and delivered amazing stadiums even in less-than-amazing industrial suburbs like Commerce City or Bridgeview.

Red Bulls fans didn’t even used to be Red Bulls fans. They were MetroStars fans. And before that New York/New Jersey MetroStars fans. How’s that for an identity crisis? Crew fans were Crew fans. Period. They brown bagged it to work and cheered for Frankie Hejduk and things never changed. D.C. United fans were United fans. Period. They made the stands at RFK rock up and down and things never changed.

But things have changed in New York. A lot. New coach, new stadium, new players. Which leads to the Weekender’s confession: When Joel Lindpere rocketed that gorgeous volley off Andrew Dysktra’s mitts last weekend and led New York past Chicago in the season opener, it felt good to see Red Bulls fans elate.

They existed after all, patting each other on the backs for Lindpere’s blast or for Bouna Condoul’s heroics, seemingly forgetting all about 2009, when the league’s most important market was the league’s worst team.

The league’s curious schedule has a light week of games on Easter weekend just one week removed from the opener, but no matter. New York’s trip west to Seattle on Saturday night would have been the game of the week even on a full slate, if only for the chance to see Red Bulls fans test their stomachs two weeks into 2010.

Did the Chicago win mean much? Maybe not. Last week’s opponent are in flux with no identity yet and a glorified rookie in net. This week’s opponent are concrete with Kasey Keller and Freddie Ljungberg and Sigi Schmid and the whole polished bunch, looking every bit the best reason to stand in the rain in Seattle since Nirvana lined them around the block at the Crocodile Café in 1992. (The Weekender didn’t know $3 tickets existed either.)

If New York wins this one, maybe the club is as real as those fans. The Weekender will certainly give them that much. Maybe Red Bulls fans can reassert their rightful place on the MLS landscape, not as a bitter league original but a phoenix rising on the PATH train to Jersey.

Theater: Clash of the Titans

The last time Liverpool FC lover Liam Neeson and Chelsea fan Ralph Fiennes shared the screen was in a Nazi holocaust camp in Steven Spielberg’s seminal drama Schindler’s List. Are the stakes somehow higher this time, when Neeson (Zeus) and Fiennes (Hades) choose sides in Clash of the Titans? Tough call. Regardless, neither of them are Harry Hamlin.

Bookmark: The Big Short

Did anyone but the Weekender wonder why Sandra Bullock never mentioned Michael Lewis on Oscar night? After all, Lewis was the one who did the dirty work: He wrote the novel The Blind Side. Lewis is also famous for making stats geeks baseball’s hottest commodity with Moneyball and Gordon Gecko look soft in Liar’s Poker, and his new best-seller digs into the sub-prime mortgage morass.

Listen Up: LCD Soundsystem, Sound of Silver

Could the Weekender send Red Bulls fans out there without some New York music? The Internet was abuzz this week over the new single “Drunk Girls” from this NYC dance/punk group, with a much-hyped third album highlighting an already stacked month of May for new releases. Until them, go back and check out the group’s 2007 release, which spawned the tailgate must-have hits “All My Friends” and “North American Scum.” The latter comes complete with the quintessential line: “New York’s the greatest if you get someone to pay the rent.” Fuhgettaboutit.

Nick Firchau is a new media editor with MLSsoccer.com. “The Weekender” column appears every Friday.