Saturday evening: the main event: New York Red Bulls vs. Arsenal Football Club.
Thousands of Arsenal supporters flocked to Red Bull Arena in Harrison, New Jersey by bus and train. As the team coach rolled past the Harrison PATH station, we faced a sea of red of white - with a touch of yellow and blue mixed in. A number of fans lined the streets and greeted the bus at the stadium gate.
If the reception from the supporters at the Fan Party on Thursday night was really impressive, the scene in the stadium was simply stunning. Apart from the Red Bull logos scattered about the arena, you could be forgiven for wondering if Arsenal were the home side.
The romantic in me was, of course, hoping to see Arsenal put on a clinic while cruising to a comfortable win while also witnessing Thierry wow us with a goal or two. Neither was in the cards that night, but Thierry did set the tone very early on - nearly slipping a shot past Wojciech Szczesny, but for the ball to roll just wide.
He also created the only goal of the game by floating a corner kick to the far post that was headed down by a teammate before being knocked in by striker Bradley Wright-Phillips – the son of Ian Wright.
As expected, the boss made wholesale changes to the team after the break. The Red Bulls also shook things up a bit to start the second half, but their manager waited seven or eight minutes into the half before subbing Thierry out. The lengthy standing ovation was a wonderful moment between the Arsenal legend and his adoring fans.
Overall, the game functioned as a good workout for the squad. It was only our second friendly of the pre-season, and it marked the first appearance back for the players whose participation in the World Cup ended after the group stages. Of course, the shame of it being a World Cup year, we were still without a number of our key players as well as all of our new signings. But that didn’t mean there weren’t elements that stood out in a very positive way.
Among them for me: Arteta’s steady control and metronomic passing, Jack’s power and drive, and some wonderful all-around work by Aaron.
In his post press conference, Arsène Wenger summed up the sentiments coolly as ever:
"For us it was a great experience, everybody enjoyed it and nobody wants to go home. It was a short trip but a very exciting one because New York is a special city."
But head home they did. Not long after the final whistle the team and much of the staff boarded the coaches and zipped off to the airport. The few of that remained behind had the sad duty to inform those still waiting at the hotel hoping to get a glimpse of the team that they had in fact already departed.
This match - and this entire weekend really - may have been just a flavor of the upcoming new season for all of us supporters in the USA, but after a 25 year wait to see Arsenal play here, it was truly one to savor.Copyright 2017 The Arsenal Football Club plc. Permission to use quotations from this article is granted subject to appropriate credit being given to www.arsenal.com as the source