Rivalries are fun. They can be dangerous as well. They are the life force of a sporting league. This week marks the annual MLS rivalry week. The New York Red Bulls and New York City Football Club’s hostilities are centered on the fact that MLS manufactured this rivalry three years ago by creating NYCFC for the sole purpose of giving the Red Bulls an antagonist. It certainly has stoked the fire but it has been the Blues who have been burnt to the tune of six losses in seven games to their New Jersey counterparts including a 1-0 defeat last Wednesday eliminating them from the U.S Open Cup.
“They were put there for that reason, to hate each other,” Bradley Wright-Phillips said. “I always wanted to get revenge on them because of my debut,” countered Jack Harrison of NYCFC.
Now as these two rivals face each other again this Saturday the momentum is clearly on the side of the Reds who were floundering with mediocrity for most of this season. The victory over NYCFC at Red Bull Park which advanced them in the U.S Open Cup followed by a 2-0 road win in Philadelphia, a rough place for visitors has appeared to have jump-started the Red Bulls engine.
“They have the momentum, the confidence. I will have to find the right words to challenge my players,” NYCFC Head coach Patrick Vieira said, “That’s why the game for the cup was very important because it can dictate the mood of the players.”
Speaking of the Red Bull Organization itself, a curious twist took place as the Red Bulls Head coach Jesse Marsch, who hightailed it out of Philadelphia after victory was assured to catch a flight to Poland. The reason was to pursue a UEFA coaching license which would allow Marsch,upon graduation, to coach in Europe’s top level leagues presumably for other teams under the Red Bull tree. Though he is due to return for the game, he is leaving the preparation for it to Chris Armas. Though this was a move that was known and approved by Red Bull, it implied strongly that Marsch has aspirations to coach in Europe fairly soon and that Armas may take over for real some day.
“As for us we have a very adapting and equipped coaching staff. If Jesse had to leave for any reason we would be totally fine,” said Thomas McNamara sporting a new short haircut. “A lot of the messaging ends up being the same, how we say it is with a different voice, a different feel perhaps,” added Armas.
Patrick Vieira, without Maxi Moralez, on the other hand is choosing to use all his available days before announcing his starting eleven.
“I didn’t make a decision yet,” Vieira said, “I still have a few days to make a decision.”
Styles make fights and this battle of Red vs Blue is a perfect mesh with the Red Bulls focused on marking presses up front which will be a counterbalance to NYCFC preferring to play possession football. This is the way the games have played out and outside of small deviations it will be exactly what we will see. Saturday.
“I think it comes down to a battle of tactics,” Wright-Phillips said, “On that day just don’t lose any battles.” “They have a way and it’s brought them success in the short time Patrick’s been there so why change everything just because,” added Chris Armas. “
Luis Robles, Red Bull goalie said it best, “NYCFC is committed to bring it out of the back, nibble their way up the field and we want to win the ball as high up as possible.”
Patrick Vieira sees it simply as a clash of ideas that make for entertaining soccer.
“That’s why we all enjoy the games because there is not a right or wrong way, it’s just a different philosophy,” said Vieira.
The Red Bulls will be led by Bradley Wright-Phillips, who scored twice in Philadelphia and made no bones about his dislike for the Blues right down to his own family who shares in his hate for the NYC team.
“Being so close and social media always going back and forth,” Wright-Phillips said, “From the first season I have not liked them. I tell my children ‘Do not like them!’
Tyler Adams, who will be graduating high school a day apart from this derby was on everyone’s lips. The 19-year old has impressed with the Red Bulls as well as the World Cup youth team he was a part. The opportunities he has been given has been earned not handed over.
“It gave me a lot of confidence playing in the World Cup with guys that are or near my age. Making a run to the quarterfinals was really good,” Adams said.
David Villa is the one player for NYCFC that can change any game. Wright-Phillips even clearly pointed out at the press conference that Villa, the defending MLS MVP, is a different kind of “beast” on the pitch.
“He can be quiet for 90 minutes then suddenly you look up and he has six shots and a goal,” Wright-Phillips said.
This may not be enough as the Reds have seemed to have the Blues number. They also will have home field and the edge in goal with Luis Robles who is focused not on the party but the particulars.
“All the stuff on the side is not even on my radar,” Robles said.
“The coaches battle will consist of Red Bull organizational preparation vs Patrick Vieira of NYCFC who feels players cannot inherently coach themselves. NYCFC is ahead of the Red Bulls so there is a sense of urgency but NYCFC has played very well against everyone else. That’s what makes derbies interesting. One can never determine what will happen on any given day. As Sacha Kljestan recalled from his historical derbies in Greece, it either makes or breaks you.
“It makes you better. You either got scared and played bad or you play with confidence and show yourself.”