Saturday, April 15, 2017

Orlando City B 1 at New York Red Bulls II 3 (USL) - April 14, 2017

Last week I attended my first USL game, when the New York Red Bulls II played at Red Bull Arena, relatively easy to get to on public transit. This week, the club again had a home tilt, but this time at MSU Soccer Park, their new regular ground for the 2017 season. MSU stands for Montclair State University, and the venue can be found on campus, about 15 miles west of New York. Transit to here is not nearly as regular as to Red Bull Arena, with direct trains from Penn Station averaging about one per hour, even during the evening rush.

I planned to take a NJ Transit train from Penn Station but just before leaving work, it was announced that an inbound train was stuck in the tunnel between Midtown and New Jersey. All NJ Transit service was delayed, which meant that there was no way I could get to the game on time. A panicked search revealed a bus from Port Authority that would go right by the field, but it left at 5:18. I had to rush to the terminal (no easy feat on the crowded streets of Manhattan) and managed to board the bus just in time. Just over 45  minutes later I was in front of the MSU campus, located in a very quiet neighbourhood. I took a couple of pictures of the surroundings, including a sculpture of a hawk, as Montclair State's moniker is Red Hawks.

The field itself is just behind a small amphitheater on the south side of campus. I followed some of the Orlando players there. In minor league soccer, there aren't many perks.

Tickets are $15 for GA, though you are supposed to sit in the section listed on your ticket. Nobody checks, so it doesn't really matter in the end.

As mentioned, this is a very small venue, with just a single long grandstand along the east sideline, which means the sun is shining in your face for the first few minutes of the game. There is also a small seating area behind the south goal for supporters.

Sitting in the top row allows you to rest your back against the fence, which is covered with signs encouraging hooliganism. Fortunately, none of the 722 in attendance paid any attention to these exhortations.

There is a small food stand with very basic offerings. The hot dogs, normally $2.50, were a buck on the night and pretty good. The only other hot food was a $3 pretzel; candy completed the menu. There is even a "beer garden" with $6 tall boys.

Overall, this as basic as they come for a professional sports facility. Given the difficulty in getting out here, especially on weekends when there are no trains to MSU in the afternoon or evening, I doubt many travelling fans will bother, but if you do make the trek, you should have an enjoyable evening.

The Game

Orlando City B were in town to take on the defending USL champs and fell behind early when Junior Flemmings scored from the top of the 6-yard box in the 16th minute. OCB (which sounds more like a disease than a soccer club) tied it on an Albert Dikwa header in the 34th minute, with the Red Bulls playing down a man due to injury. Late in first half stoppage time, NYRB II regained the lead as Frenchman Vincent Bezecourt (a St. Francis alum) let a weak curling shot go from the top of the box that should have been stopped by Earl Edwards Jr., but wasn't.

The second half didn't see much action until late, when the Red Bulls put things away on a quickly-taken free kick that caught Orlando napping. David Abidor had no trouble getting behind the sleepy defense and slotting home to finish the scoring as the Red Bulls won 3-1.

Not a bad game compared to the first one I saw, but not the sort of league I'll make an effort to see regularly. Highlights are here for those who are interested.


The NJ Transit debacle was mostly fixed by the end of the game, but there were still residual delays. The train back was about 20 minutes behind schedule, not bad considering outbound passengers were delayed up to 2 hours. Public transit infrastructure in NYC is decaying quickly and if something is not done soon, the problems will only continue to get worse.



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