As 2011 gets underway, the Red Bulls can look back on arguably their most successful season in a decade. Here, Red Bulls beat writer Kristian Dyer takes a look at New York's third-and-final New Year’s resolution as the side heads into its second year at Red Bull Arena.
Final resolution: Win a cup
The Red Bulls have twice finished atop the Eastern Conference following the regular season, and in 2008 they even squeaked their way through the Western Conference bracket of the playoffs before finishing runners-up to champions Columbus.
The franchise also made the U.S. Open Cup final in 2003 (when known as the MetroStars), but lost to Chicago, 1-0.
However, other than the La Manga preseason title and a couple Atlantic Cup wins against their rival D.C. United, the Red Bulls trophy room is about as empty as an echo chamber.
Sure, there was the Walt Disney World Pro Soccer Classic title as part of the team’s undefeated preseason run last year, but the truth is this: As as good as the 2010 season was for a team that finished dead-last a season prior, the fact the campaign ended in the first round of the playoffs means that for some fans, it's the "Same old Red Bulls."
In fact, the club remains the only franchise of the league's original 10 teams to not win a title of note.
So in this bright and shiny new year, the Red Bulls have to pull in some hardware, whether it's the MLS Cup, Supporters' Shield or the US Open Cup. Simply put, Hans Backe’s lads need to hoist something over their heads this year. Winning some silverware would give the club an enormous boost.
[inline_node:322658]Last season the team blew a tremendous opportunity after the San Jose Earthquakes rallied in the semifinal series to advance to the Eastern Conference Championship game.
With homefield advantage throughout, New York could have advanced to MLS Cup in Toronto, where they may have faced an FC Dallas side that they beat and tied in the regular season.
It was theirs for the taking, and it's there again this year.
New York return most of their core players, and they have a nice fistful of draft picks and an intriguing mix of veterans and young talent. They can even add another Designated Player if need be. With a few tweaks here and there, Backe's side should enter 2011 as a favorite.
It could be argued that no one else in the Eastern Conference has enough talent to keep up with the pricey, flashy New York — especially given perennial contenders Columbus Crew are entering a rebuilding era.
New York have never won consecutive Eastern Conference regular season titles, but they should in 2011. That would be a solid start toward what should be a franchise goal: to win a title in some form, in some variety.
Anything less would be abject failure for this team.
Kristian R. Dyer can be reached for comment at KristianRDyer@yahoo.com and followed at twitter.com/kdyer1012