Tim Cahill's debut for New York Red Bulls
4 August ~ The man who sits in front of me at Red Bull Arena screams "We love you Titi" every time Thierry Henry comes near the touchline. On Tuesday he was dressed in a brand-new Spurs shirt, as Tottenham took on the New York Red Bulls. This one-off friendly was also known as the Barclays New York Cup, but it is going to take more than that for the bank to regain any popularity. It also seemed strange that, at a time of global anger with the financial industry, executives from both clubs chose to mark the competition by ringing the closing bell at the New York Stock Exchange. Even Daniel Levy had the good grace to look embarrassed.
Outside the ground, you could have your picture taken with the Premier League trophy or pick up some complimentary Tottenham Hotspur ThunderStix. While the publicity stunts contrasted sharply with the low-key nature of the game, the match had plenty of stories. It was Tim Cahill’s Red Bulls debut, having signed for the MLS club after eight years at Everton. In the Spurs end, there was a Croatian flag with the message “Sell Luka Modric”. Then there was Gareth Bale, who pulled out of the Olympics due to a back injury, then was the subject of a serious injury scare after a poor challenge by Liverpool’s Charlie Adam on July 28. As it turned out, Bale was fit to start against the Red Bulls only three days later.
Cahill made a quick impression, winning a penalty in the seventh minute after being pushed by new Spurs signing Jan Vertonghen. Though obviously exhausted, Cahill showed that he remains a good player. His new side took the lead from the spot-kick before Tottenham dominated much of the game. In the second half, Spurs equalised with a header from the sprightly Bale, before Gylfi Sigurdsson won the game with an excellent run and finish.
It didn’t mean that much to either side. The Red Bulls, who are one point clear at the top of the MLS Eastern Conference and reaching the sharp end of the season, were happy to avoid injuries. Tottenham still have weeks to go before their Premier League opener against Newcastle. Bale was clearly amused by the miniature size of his Man of the Match trophy. The Barclays-branded winners’ medals were the size of dinner plates.
Two days after the game the Red Bulls’ President of Business Operations, Chris Heck, left the club. Heck had made a number of controversial decisions which alienated fans. He increased season-ticket prices to watch a trophy-less team in a stadium that rarely sells out. In April, he blurted out: "I'm so glad, on the business perspective, that we haven't won yet. Because I don't believe we have been ready."
Heck took the dubious credit for scheduling three home games in a week in July, including a match against Chicago that kicked off at 1pm on a Wednesday in 38-degree heat. Some supporters wore “Chris Heck hates soccer fans” T-shirts and few were sad to see the former NBA executive go. The promotional trips to the stock exchange may be over too. Ed Upright