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Red Bulls battle D.C. to 0-0 draw

HARRISON, N.J. - There were flags and soccer jerseys of every kind represented at Red Bull Arena Saturday.

While many of those flags and jerseys had the familiar colors of the hometown Red Bulls, some featured the logos of many of the 32 FIFA World Cup teams.

The energy provided by the 16,239 fans who witnessed the Red Bulls play D.C. United to a 0-0 draw, wasn't just about hoping the home team gets the win. It was a celebration of soccer.

The Red Bulls extended their unbeaten streak to five games, but with a victory could have moved into first in the Eastern Conference.

For many fans in attendance, it will be a weekend to remember; a Saturday night matchup between the playoff-contending Red Bulls (8-5-2) and D.C. United (3-9-3) and a World Cup final match Sunday between Spain and the Netherlands, two teams that never won a World Cup title.

"This is a great weekend for soccer," said Jim Peters of Hoboken. "Hopefully, they can start filling this stadium even more when the World Cup is over."

Peters, 25, said he'd been playing soccer since he was 5 years old and hopes the new arena will grow the sport.

"A soccer-specific stadium was exactly what this area needed," Peters said.

Peters plans on watching the World Cup final with a group of his friends. "I'm rooting for the Netherlands," he said. "But if they lose, I win $160. It's a win-win for me."

For Michael Pacholek, a self-described "die-hard" Red Bulls fan, it's been wall-to-wall soccer for the last month. "This has been a very involved weekend for me," said Pacholek, 40, of East Brunswick. "I still haven't decided where I'm going to watch the final."

Pacholek, who said he is of Polish decent, is hoping for a little "Dutch magic."

The game brought out celebrities from other sports, too, as Phoenix Suns point guard Steve Nash, an avid soccer fan and part owner of the MLS expansion Vancouver Whitecaps, was on hand to enjoy the atmosphere. "This stadium is fantastic . . . It's a world-class stadium," Nash said. "It's great for the game."

As for a rooting interest, Nash said he likes Spain's midfield strength, but he doesn't think the Netherlands should be counted out. "I think Spain is the favorite, but to win a World Cup, you have to be lucky," Nash said. "If you look through the tournament, the Dutch seem to have a little bit of that destiny."

Henry to be introduced Thursday

The Red Bulls are expected to introduce former FC Barcelona and Arsenal FC star Thierry Henry at a news conference Thursday. Henry is Arsenal's all-time leading scorer with 226 goals. Red Bulls general manager Erik Soler wouldn't confirm or deny Henry's addition to the club, but several published reports have indicated the France native is set to become the newest member of the Red Bulls.

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