The New York Red Bulls beat the New York City Football Club 2-1 on Sunday night at Red Bull Arena in Harrison, NJ. This is the first time they have ever met in the inaugural New York Derby, adopted from the British term for rivalry games, and the match lived up to the hype.
Red Bull Arena had an electric atmosphere, and it was a sell-out with 25,217 fans, most of which were for the home Red Bulls. There was a contingent of NYC FC fans known as the Third Rail in one end, opposite the Red Bulls’ Supporters’ section. These superfans dueled all night with their various songs, as Red Bulls fans sang The Beatles’ “Twist and Shout” and the NYC FC fans singing “Are You Gonna Be My Girl” at various points, in addition to their chants.
The Red Bulls came out strong from the opening whistle, forcing a corner kick in the opening minute and sustaining the pressure. In the fourth minute, Lloyd Sam came in on the right side and drew three NYC FC defenders. Sam found Bradley Wright-Phillips alone coming down the center of the crease, and he buried it to make it 1-0 Red Bulls.
In the 18th minute, Red Bulls defender Matt Miazga got a yellow card for taking down NYC FC’s Khiry Shelton just outside the box. The result was a free kick and NYC FC defender Chris Wingert broke in on the left side and scored, or did he? The side referee had the flag up, declaring him offsides and invalidating the goal.
Miazga challenged NYC FC defender Josh Williams for a loose ball in the 36th minute and took him down. Miazga received a second yellow card, equalling a red card, and he was sent off, forcing the Red Bulls to play with ten men.
Despite the man advantage, NYC FC did not get sustained pressure for the rest of the first half, and the best chance came from Wright-Phillips in the 46th minute, as he broke free. NYC FC goalie Josh Saunders kicked it away, and that was the final play of the first half.
The second half started with a bang, as NYC FC midfielder Ned Grabavoy got a quality shot off from the top of the box, but it went wide right. Two minutes later, Lloyd Sam broke in on the right, got by Saunders, but NYC FC defender R.J. Allen, in his second game with the club, stood tall on the goal line and knocked it down.
In the 52nd minute, Sacha Kljestan came in on the left side, and the NYC FC defense was slow to get back, and Wright-Phillips walked right in for his second goal to make it 2-0 Red Bulls. The NYC FC defense was pretty good in this one, but on this and the first goal, there were complete breakdowns.
To get the New York City FC offense going, Coach Jason Kreis pulled midfielder Mix Diskerud for Kawadwo Poku in the 64th minute, forward David Villa for Patrick Mullins in the 68th minute, and midfielder Pedro Alvarez for Mehdi Ballouchy in the 70th minute.
The moves worked, as they started to sustain pressure and in the 76th minute, they got a quick rush and Allen and Poku got it to Mullins at the top of the key for a goal to cut the Red Bulls’ lead to 2-1.
The final 15 minutes of the game were marked by players being taken down and no calls, quite a turnaround from the first half when Miazga took two yellow cards. Grabavoy was taken down a couple times and there was one play when Poku was taken down in the box and, seconds later, a Red Bulls player was taken down at midfield. Ultimately, cards were pulled out, as Ballouchy got a yellow in the 88th and Kljestan got a yellow in the 90th.
The Red Bulls improve their record to 4 wins, 4 draws, and a loss, for 16 points, in 3rd place in the MLS Eastern Conference. NYC FC’s winless streak reached 8 games and their record fell to 1 win, 3 draws, and 6 losses, for 6 points, tied for 7th with Orlando SC.
New York Red Bulls head coach Jesse Marsch said of what his message to the team was and thoughts on the performance, “We have talked about if we go a man down what the tactics need to look like. We still want to find moments to try and press and now compress the field and win balls and then when we do play forward and see if we can catch teams on the counter. We were able to do that effectivelytonight, we make it easy on ourselves getting the second goal was hugely important, but it would’ve been – obviously the third goal was there for us and that would’ve made the game a lot easier, but in the end the test of the will of this team and the mentality and what it takes to be when you’re a man down I thought we grew so much today and it was a character win and I’m proud of our team. I’m proud of our team probably more now than ever.”
Marsch said on if the derby exceeded his expectations and if he sees NYCFC getting stronger later in the season, “I knew it would be awesome in the stadium tonight and I think it was incredible. It did exceed my expectations and I think what I like about our crowd right now is that they get what we’re trying to do, they get how we’re trying to play, and they respond to it so it makes it even have more energy at the right time so it feels like an educated crowd and an educated fan base.
“For New York, I don’t want to comment too much on them. The only thing I can draw on is to say that its not easy. Okay, and the ability to stay on track and stay on course is so important when you’re an expansion team and at some point it starts to turn and it’s not always easy, you need to go through tough moments – it’s the only way to do it as an expansion team. You need to go through tough moments and then understand how to handle them and then understand how to move forward so next time we play them I have no doubt they’ll be better,” said Marsch.
On the importance of the early goal, Marsch said, “I think the early goal was huge. We’ve been talking about better starts so obviously that was big. I think the second goal was probably even bigger because when you’re down a man, and again with the way that we’re trying to play even when we’re down a man to get that second goal gives you a little bit of breathing room and knowing that you can still make one mistake, but keep yourself moving forward so every goal’s big in every game, but I thought the timing of both goals was very vital.
Marsch said of this possibly being the Red Bulls’ best defensive outing of the year, considering they shut down David Villa and Mix Diskerud, “It was a different kind of game for us because we get the early lead, then we go down a man, and now a lot of the things that we’ve tried to accomplish tactically this year almost get changed a bit and we have to readjust. We’ve addressed it in training so we knew how to play a man down, but there was a lot of big defensive plays that were made by all the guys on the back line and Felipe and Dax [McCarty] and for that matter everyone on the field, but our back line continues to be a strength of this team. Kemar Lawrence and Chris Duvall put in so much hard work and covered so much ground and put out so many fires so and then when we put in Roy Miller, a third center back, we wanted to give them the freedom to try and go out because they were causing us trouble with their wide play so wanted Chris and Kemar to step out more and to start to close that down and I actually thought that that was a good move and those guys executed that very well.”
Red Bull forward Bradley Wright-Phillips said of this being a statement game, and if he’s the biggest star in the area after all the hype about NYC FC and David Villa, “No, not at all I don’t think I am a star. I say it all the time you know, people think I am not being serious. I am the kind of player that doesn’t feel like they get people out of their seats. I try to get on the end of good plays, I don’t want to be the star, I just want a championship ring.”
Wright-Phillips said of his emotions after scoring the first goal, “I think we started well and I could feel a goal coming but didn’t know who would score it. I was just happy to be on the end of it I didn’t have to do much. I think Lloyd Sam did all of the work but it was a great feeling to score in the derby.”
Wright-Phillips also said of the feeling to having this performance, “A lot of work that we put in and what we have been trying to achieve in training it showed when we went down to 10 men.”
On how the NY/NY derby compared to England, Wright-Phillips said, “Every derby is different they all have their own thing. This one is special because it is new and both teams are trying to get off to a best start and we did it, I am just happy we won. We can let history tell the story and in the future, for me it’s not about that we got three points it is not about that we won the battle for our fans. I am just delighted.”
Marsch said of how much this felt like a rivalry game, “I think there’s a lot to it. I think having the energy of the stadium was awesome. Certainly we all knew about the fact that this will be a future rivalry and that’s just a fact, that’s the way it’s going to work itself out. There weren’t too many crazy moments in the game which surprised me a little bit. There was emotion, but, and I think maybe that the red card kind of took some of that out of the game, but overall, what a great crowd, what a great event, I think a great moment for our league, a great moment for both of these clubs. We’re going to benefit, but seriously, I knew this when I was at Chivas [USA], we benefited from that rivalry we had with the Galaxy. Those were always good games, those were some of our best games of the year, the games are played with high energy, high emotion, very physical, we’re so much better for playing this game tonight.”