The Red Bulls completed their sweep of the season series in the New York Derby on Sunday night with a 2-0 win over New York City Football Club at Red Bull Arena.
The Red Bulls also beat NYC FC 2-1 on May 10th at Red Bull Arena, followed by a 3-1 win at Yankee Stadium on June 28th.
Red Bulls Head Coach Jesse Marsch said of the significance of winning against their local rivals, “This was a huge match. The energy leading up to the game was big. The energy around the stadium on the night was big. We knew it was going to be. We knew they were going to come with a lot, and they did. They threw a lot at us. They had a very good second half. We had some heavy legs and we hung in there. Luis [Robles] made some big saves. There is no doubt that this was special.”
The game began with some big chances from NYC FC. In just the third minute, there was a give-and-go from Mix Diskerud on the right side to David Villa on the left, who got it to Frank Lampard coming down the right side. Lampard fired it across the crease past Red Bulls goalie Luis Robles, but it went wide of the left post. NYC FC thought it was in, as Head Coach Jason Kreis got off the bench to celebrate, then had to quietly turn around and sit down.
In the eighth minute, Diskerud had a great chance coming down the right side, and Robles made the point-blank save.
Red Bulls midfielder Sacha Kljestan said of NYCFC’s early chances, “Luis made a big save on Mix’s chance. Soccer is about moments and games and big moments. Luis save was a big moment and I think we scored 15 minutes after that. So those things happen in soccer. Sometime games go your way and tonight the game went our way.”
In some ways, these were New York City’s two best chances of the game, as Lampard never got another top-quality chance the rest of the game.
The Red Bulls started getting some good chances around the 10th minute, with Felipe and Mike Grella nearly breaking through.
In the 20th minute, Kemar Lawrence came down the left side and sent one into the box, right by NYC FC defender Jefferson Mena, to Bradley Wright-Phillips, who drilled it to make it 1-0 Red Bulls. This was a tough one for NYC, as Mena should have had had no problem kicking it away, and instead it went under him through to Wright-Phillips.
Each team had plenty of chances throughout the rest of the first half, including a couple by Lampard, in the 35th when he shanked one from the top of the box, and in the 42nd when he missed wide right on a header. A minute later, Red Bull Sacha Kljestan missed a point-blank chance.
The game remained 1-0 well into the second half, with the Red Bulls starting to put on heavy pressure after the 70th minute. In the 84th, Wright-Phillips was in alone on the left side and got it by Saunders, but Angelino was there to kick it away. It went to his brother Shaun Wright-Phillips, also on the left side, and he shot it right at Saunders.
A minute later, the Red Bulls broke through as Mike Grella found Felipe coming down the left side. Felipe faked out a NYC FC defender and got it by Saunders to make it 2-0 Red Bulls in the 85th. Red Bulls controlled play the rest of the way, with little fight from NYC FC.
Marsch said of Felipe’s performance tonight, “Yes, I think that he has gained clarity in terms of his role and in terms of the expectations for him. He cares so much and he wants to give so much to the team that sometimes he starts to operate outside of his boundaries. It’s just trying to remind him that he’s a very good player, especially when he plays to his strengths and he plays to his role. When he does that I think he’s absolutely fantastic. I think he showed that tonight.”
Marsch said of this possibly being the defense’s best performance of the season, Marsch said, “[A] little nervy in the beginning, for sure. Yeah, we’ve worked a lot on the tactics and some of the individual defending and guys were able to stand up guys like [David] Villa – Villa didn’t have an easy day. He caught a lot of balls in and around the 18 where he’s been dangerous all year but he didn’t have a lot of free looks. That’s a credit to each one of our guys.”
Red Bulls goalie Luis Robles said to the same question on the defense, “Yes. I think for 90 minutes that it was pretty complete performance. Sure if we are being critical there were some opportunities that we could have done without. Lampard got a couple looks, but they weren’t good chances but look we are a young defense. To just limit the praise to those four, I think isn’t enough. It stared up top with Bradley. You saw the effort he put up top. But to answer your question yeah I think it was the best defensive performance over 90 minutes for the season.”
Robles said of the energy of the game, “We knew they were going to come with a lot of energy and it was important for us to match that energy. And maybe we didn’t in the first few minutes but that’s part of my job description to come up with saves once in a while. So after that the defense was phenomenal.”
One key to the win was how the Red Bulls bottled up Frank Lampard and Andrea Pirlo in the midfield, giving them very little room to roam and playing them very physically at times. This was just Pirlo’s third game with NYC FC, having come over from Juventus, and his second start. Lampard, after a long saga, made his debut last Saturday and this was his first start.
Marsch said of this, “Yes, that was a big emphasis on how we wanted to play. We wanted to make sure neither of those two had an easy day. Credit to, again, Sacha (Kljestan), Dax (McCarty), and Felipe in middle of the field, with heavy legs. I think they took it as a personal challenge to play against great players like that.”
Marsch said of the Red Bulls tearing down the mystique surrounding Pirlo and Lampard, “I can’t take credit for that. We have a fearless team. That was a personal challenge, I think, for those guys. I think our guys wanted to prove a point and go in there and play against world-class players [and] show they’re up for the task. The way we play and how we play and who we are is still going to make us successful.”
Red Bulls midfielder Sacha Kljestan said to the question of if it was his job to watch Andrea Pirlo, “Not really but I was told to make sure when he got the ball he didn’t have time to pick his head up and get the ball where he wanted it. Jesse said when he got the ball to attack his right foot and I think we did a very good job with that.”
Kljestan said of what he thought about the emotions on Pirlo’s face during and after the game, “He has the same emotions on his face at all times, but I could tell he was frustrated. We were a little physical with him and he doesn’t like that. He’s an amazing player and he has a lot of class and a lot of talent but I think we made things hard on him tonight.”
The Red Bulls completed a stretch of three games in eight days, which started with a win in Philadelphia on August 1st, a tie in Montreal on the 5th, and the win over NYC. Marsch said of the role youth and system plays in being able to play three games in eight days, “It was another game where we put three homegrown players on the field. We had Matt Miazga, Connor Lade, and Sean Davis on at the end in an important moment for the club. There was a lot of talk a few months ago from you guys asking me how we would do in the summer and ‘would we be able to hold up in the heat’ and everything else. I said we’ll be fitter than everyone else, we’ll be stronger than everyone else. We’re younger than everybody else and we can play fast.”
This season sweep is vindication to the Red Bulls in the sense that they are building their team up through their academy and youth teams, while New York City is bringing in expensive imports like Pirlo and Lampard.
On if he views NYCFC as a contrast to the way both teams were constructed, Marsch said, “That’s their approach. It’s their philosophy. It’s fair enough. It has made a big splash in the community, right? I think a lot of people are excited about players like Pirlo and Lampard and Villa, and rightfully so. Great players, great careers, amazing, right? It’s just different from what we’re doing. We’re sticking to what we’re doing. Even when we added a guy like Shaun Wright-Phillips, who I consider a big name, as well. You can see that he fits our style, fits our philosophy, so in some ways, even though he’s an outlier from an age perspective, I think he fits into our philosophy.”
Marsch was asked if sweeping NYCFC in the season series is key to gaining a foothold with the fans, and he said, “Yeah, I think there is pride involved in the city. I’ll be straight, I think them being in the league has been great for the city of New York and great for the league. I’ve never seen this city so alive with soccer. For actual local teams for people to be passionate about, for them to take sides, for them to attach themselves to the identity of whichever team they want to attach themselves to, it’s been awesome, man.”
New York Red Bulls defender Connor Lade said of NYCFC’s skill set, “New York is an extremely talented team, and we knew that coming in. We knew that they were a very dangerous team and can hurt you in many ways, so we had to come out and really play our game and just play for one another.”
Lade said of Frank Lampard and Andrea Pirlo, “With players like that, you just can’t give them time on the ball. We watched games of them in the past where they’ve been given a lot of time and people are shying off of them and that’s when they hurt you the most, so we wanted to make it hard for them to get in sync, I thought we did a pretty good job of that.”
Lade said of preseason chatter involving the teams, “These are the types of win that show what our team is all about. We really want to be a unit this year, and [Jesse Marsch and Ali Curtis, Red Bulls Sporting Director] do a really good job of making us play as one, and they laid out a game plan for us in the beginning of the year, and I think every day we’re getting more comfortable with it. A result like this tonight really makes you feel good about the system we have in place and we’re really excited for the future.”
Red Bulls forward Mike Grella said of the team’s layout, “We fight for each other, work for each other, we train hard in training every day, no one’s above anyone here, everyone’s fighting for their spots, it’s just a healthy environment, it’s a real team. It’s one of the best put together teams I’ve ever been a part of.”
Grella said of what makes the Red Bulls special, “I enjoy fighting for the guys next to me, I enjoy fighting for all the guys that are playing, the guys that come off the bench are fantastic. It’s just a real family style team, and everyone’s fighting for each other.”
On if he knew he’d have this great of an experience coming to New York, Grella said, “Absolutely not, I was fighting for my career. I didn’t think it would ever be this good. When I spoke to Jesse, I just thought he was an intelligent guy, can manage players well, but he’s fantastic, beyond even how good I thought he was.”