This offseason, as the date when MLS would release the Fire's full schedule approached, I began to think about a few matches that would really pique my interest -- really get my juices flowing about the upcoming season. I wanted to know when the Fire would first play Philly, when the Fire would host Columbus, when the team would travel to Seattle and, most importantly, when the team would travel to New York. Why? That's easy. Red Bull Arena.
The Red Bulls new home in Harrison, NJ looks fantastic. Ownership spent over $200 million on the 25,000 seat gem and the initial reactions seem to indicate that they got their money's worth.
"Red Bull really stepped up and delivered," said New York forward John Wolyniec, who was kind enough to talk with me Thursday. "They did a really phenomenal, top class job." Technically, New York opened up their stadium last Saturday; when they defeated Brazilian club Santos FC 3-1 in a friendly match. But Saturday's league opener represents what I'll call the "true" opening of the park and the Red Bulls are -- naturally -- very excited.
"They really didn't cut any corners," Wolyniec said. "Top to bottom the place is first class and Chicago is going to be quite impressed. I'm really excited to be able to see it open up because it seems like were gonna be able to have a nice home field advantage."
Contributing to the home field advantage is the fact that the stadium is somewhat enclosed. All four sides of the park feature overhangs that extend well out over the grandstand; encapsulating the noise that fans make.
"It's a pretty loud place -- especially when you have 25,000 fans in there," Wolyniec said. "I think our fans are very excited about it because it's [a great] atmosphere. It's completely different from playing in Giants Stadium."
Personally, I'm very excited to see the Fire open their season at Red Bull Arena. It should be a solid sight to see. I've included a panoramic video shot of the stadium below. Check it out.
I'll be back later with a little preview of tomorrow night's match. Stay tuned.