Robles Challenges Fans To Fill Red Bull Arena

CBS New York

Shortly after Red Bull New York defeated El Salvadorian side Alianza to virtually clinch their spot in the CONCACAF Champions League quarterfinals, goalkeeper Luis Robles stopped on his way to the locker room and looked for high-fives from the small gathering of reporters who came to cover the match.

He was clearly excited to have backstopped his organization to their first CCL knockout round appearance in their 21-year-history. In some respect, celebrating with the media was an extension of his noted tradition of celebrating and thanking the fans long after matches ended; be it in victory or defeat. However, on that September evening, it was more like he was supplementing the lack of fans to share the victory with.

Though the match was played at Red Bull Arena, it was the traveling El Salvadorian fans who were the most audible which created an electric atmosphere. On the other end of the pitch, the “South Ward” continued with their gameday chants and cheers, but with a fraction of their usual members.

Though it was an 8pm match on a weekday, against an opponent most Americans had never heard of, Robles was disappointed in the number that eventually turned up.

“It’s kinda strange,” said the keeper. “You’d hope that we’d have more people in the stadium because there’s been a lot of talk about us not taking these games seriously. Well, now we’re taking them seriously, and I feel like our fans need to take them seriously and come out and support us.”

He continued, “The South Ward is bringing it. Now we gotta ask all the other fans to bring it too. The season ticket holders, where they at tonight?”

It’s clear that the players have noticed the lack of fan turnout over the years. Though the Red Bulls are poised to finish the season with an average attendance exceeding 20,000 for the first time, those numbers are probably based on the number of tickets distributed, not the number of fans that were in the stadium.

The Red Bulls are on a 17-match unbeaten streak, yet Robles echoed a similar refrain following Saturday night’s thrilling 3-2 victory over Philadelphia. Officially the attendance was north of 22,000, however, it was clear that wasn’t indicative of the number of fans in seats.

When asked about the atmosphere he expects in the playoffs, the franchise record-holder in numerous categories didn’t hold back. “I don’t know what’s going on there. It’s a little discouraging at times as a player to step out there and see we don’t have a full stadium.”

He went on, “Is it the big names that’s going to fill up the stadium? We had that but the stadium wasn’t full. Is it the team winning? Well the team’s been winning now for years – the last two years have been exceptional – and yet the fans aren’t there.”

“We’re hoping, especially in the last home game, that the supporters do come out. They understand and appreciate the group of honest, hardworking guys that’s here. I hope they come out and support us.”

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