Major League Soccer, after a break from its season for the World Cup, has returned. With the eyes of the world focused on soccer, where here in the US where fans are turning out to watch the games on television and online in record numbers, the MLS has an opportunity to grow its fanbase. And so, on Friday night when the World Cup took a break in the action, MLS returned to Red Bull Arena.
With its return, Tim Cahill was back in town after scoring two goals for Australia, one which is still perhaps the most beautiful of the matches so far. But Australia failed to advance, and he was here, back in Harrison NJ where the fans roared him on to the pitch when he was substituted on late in the second half. Still missing from the squad was defender Roy Miller who is with the Costa Rica squad in Brazil.
Facing them were Toronto FC, who came in with a squad also diminished by the games in Brazil, a team missing Michael Bradley who is still on international duty with the USMNT. If the matches in Brazil have made the public hungry for the game, then last night’s near capacity crowd of 20,176 fans was a respectable number that is not the largest this season at the arena, but by no means the smallest.
Defensively, the Red Bulls made changes. The line was anchored by Jamison Olave, but included the additions of home grown Matt Miazga, Chris Duvall (their Wake Forest draft pick) and new addition Ambroise Oyongo. Oyongo earned an assist in his first game with the Red Bulls when he took a ball sent by Thierry Henry and crossed it to Peguy Luyindula for the first goal of the game. As a defender, he showed over and over during the game that he was unafraid to put his body at risk to keep Toronto from scoring. It was all out play that got him noticed.
Miazga created action and drove the game forward, his long ball to Tim Cahill, that Cahill sent along to Bradley Wright-Phillips for the equalizer, marked him as another player who needed more time on the pitch. Chris Duvall was another welcome addition. His speed kept him involved both as a playmaker and a play stopper.
They left it late, but RBNY were able to tie the game 2-2.
If the MLS is to change soccer in the United States, to profit from the attention that is focused on the USMNT, then it needs to change how it is perceived in the eyes of the world. It needs to be a league that plays with class and sophistication. It should be a fast paced, well played game that draws them in. Defensively, with the changes that the Red Bulls made in this game against Toronto, the team took a step in that direction.