As Red Bulls head coach Troy Lesesne sat in the makeshift press conference room on Saturday night, he couldn’t help but laugh as he tried to talk over the Naughty By Nature performance out on the pitch.
In a way, it summed up the wild night that took place at Red Bull Arena as Lionel Messi graced the Big Apple with his presence and delighted the record crowd of 26,276 that flocked to Harrison, N.J.
For the Red Bulls, it was a moment that most of their players will never forget, and the experience was one that Lesesne said he had never gone through before.
The coach also referred to the night as a “spectacle,” which was a phrase that midfielder Peter Stroud also used when he spoke to reporters in the bowels of the arena.
“Tonight was like a spectacle and like a one-off thing, I think,” Stroud said. “Obviously, that atmosphere, you know, we never really have that. We probably have that once a year when it comes down.”
Saturday night was a unique scene for the soccer-specific venue located only a few miles outside of New York City, which has held its fair share of high-profile games.
Fans arrived hours in advance, packed the parking lots and screamed for Messi to take the field after he was left out of Inter Miami’s starting XI.
Though it was hard to ignore the “spectacle” of it all, Red Bulls captain Sean Nealis said the focus of the team throughout the 90-minute contest and the days leading up to the match was on getting much-needed points in the Eastern Conference standings.
“We tried to kind of limit the outside noise as best we can,” Nealis said. “I think we have to be better and kind of facilitating our style of play more throughout the whole game, and it’s a disappointing result for us.”
While Nealis did marvel at Messi’s ability and described the chance to play against the footballer as a “cool experience,” it lost some of the charm in his eyes since they didn’t get the win.
“I would say it’s just another game at the end of the day,” he said. “I think maybe if we got a [better] result, then I would probably gloat about the experience a little more. But, you know, I’m a pretty competitive guy, so a little disappointed in the result.”
Things should go back to normal for the Red Bulls with no matches scheduled against Inter Miami for the rest of the season. Stroud said that would be good for the Red Bulls, who are only a few points back from a playoff position.
They face the New England Revolution on Wednesday with a much less bright spotlight on them.