On Thursday, April 26, players from the Verona United Soccer Club were invited to watch a New York Red Bulls practice at Red Bull Arena in Harrison. Eight players from Verona headed down and watched the players come through the tunnel and start their practice, which looked very similar to what the Verona players do here in town. They began by stretching out, then jogged around the pitch as a team, practiced a few passing and kicking drills, all while the goalies were off to the side practicing defending against different types of shots. After that, the Red Bulls got together and had a scrimmage with half the players wearing pennies. Once in a while, Head Coach Hans Backe would halt practice and draw attention to how he wants things done in certain situations. The Verona players, a few parents, and their New York Red Bull trainers were the only other people in the Arena.
During practice, rookie defender Tyler Ruthven (#15, from the University of South Carolina) came over and introduced himself to one of the Verona parents, who was wearing a Clemson University sweatshirt, and they enjoyed a bit of good-natured Palmetto State rivalry talk as midfielder Dane Richards (#19) looked on and laughed. After practice, midfielder Ryan Maduro (#13) and forwards Kenny Cooper (#33) and Corey Hertzog (#21) came over and gave every Verona player an autograph. The Verona players were very happy. Then after the many TV and sportswriters were finished with him, forward Thierry Henry (#14) came over to the Verona players and gave each one an autograph. Verona was very appreciative that the World Cup Champion player had come over to spend some time with them and they responded by giving him a nice “Merci” in return.
Before heading home, the Verona players were given a tour of the Club Lounge and a few other Arena locations, learned some interesting facts about the franchise, their arena, and were offered free Red Bull Energy Drink to take home for the ride back to Verona. The kids all had a great time.