This was a legitimate heavyweight encounter at Yankee Stadium. The Hudson River Derby has matured into a real rivalry where now the results between NYCFC and the New York Red Bulls are no longer a forgone conclusion. Sunday night was a real classic where the best beat the best.
The elite status of goaltenders Sean Johnson of NYCFC and Luis Robles of the Red Bulls usually means the margin of error is paper thin. But they were overshadowed by their respective professional gunslingers Bradley Wright-Phillips of the Red Bulls and David Villa, Captain of the NYCFC, who were on their respective games.
It was going to be a matter of who would shoot the last bullet. In this case it was the Spanish stallion who proved superior to the English equestrian by the score of 3-2 to the New York City Football Club.
This was a desperate battle of give and take. Not since Cain red carded Abel have brothers spilled so much blood. It was a slugfest with the first mighty blow a right by Captain David Villa, who exploited this crack in the Reds defense after an even 28 minutes. Against the run of play Villa was alone when the ball deflected to him off a NYCFC player behind two defenders running upwards.
He crossovered around Robles and angled it under him for a 1-0 lead. It took a world-class striker like Villa to separate the two teams initially and it appeared at first that it would be the difference.
“Credit Villa. What a great player, willing to make plays,” said Red Bulls Head coach Jesse Marsch.
The momentum was in NYCFC’s corner as the Red Bulls looked deflated and on the ropes, their past superiority on the field now disintegrating until a desperate counter left hook, a thing of beauty from its all-time leading scorer, Bradley Wright-Phillips, restored the playing field to even with a 41st minute piece of English excellence. Two short passes found Bradley at the key of the box and he calmly left-footed it in for the equalizer.
Bradley Wright-Philips and David Villa performed and delivered,” said NYCFC Head Coach Patrick Vieira.
The second half saw Bradley smell blood and being the viper once more upper cutted the Blues dropping them to the mat stunned and down 2-1 in the 65th minute with a crisp finish off a cross from Adams, who leaped over a sliding tackle to put it in center, where Wright-Phillips adjusted to his left foot and he put it past Johnson.
This was especially impressive since he was without his partner Daniel Royer, as he practically put the Red Bulls up one handed.
“That should have been enough to get at least a draw if not three points,” said Marsch, “
But Oh! Down goes Robles! Down goes Robles! from a body shot from David Villa, who drew from his championship pedigree to even matters going into the final round. He sprinted down the right side from midfield and twisted around three defenders in a tight space and beat Luis Robles to the short side.
“When Villa is in the mood he was in today it’s fantastic, “ Vieira said, “When he is playing well, the team plays well. Today, he was David.”
This would not be a classic without controversy and it was the deciding play of the game. Villa lost his man again and Sal Zizzo ended up kicking Villa high in the face as he crumbled to the ground. However there was no card.
The referee, unsure, went to the replay in the sky. They made the correct call and a penalty completed a hat trick three minutes after the equalizer. Zizzo would get a second card in the 90th minute booting him from the contest. For the first time this year Marsch had something to say about the referees.
“We felt the referee reffed the game,” Marsch said, “So many soft fouls go their way. We need refs who know how to ref the rest of the game because there is more to the game than the moments that lead to goals.”
The game is now over and there was a sense that this rivalry has entered a new phase. NYCFC (12-7-4, 40 pts) stock is increasing and the New York Red Bulls (11-9-2, 35 pts) are decreasing. But the gap is still paper thin.
“The first two years we were new and building the team,” Vieira said, “The games we won this year means we are getting close to them. But we are not a big team yet.”
“The big plays we came out on the short end of the stick,” Marsch responded, “We’re not going to let this deter us. We’re still moving in the right direction and we are going to use this game to make sure we get stronger and learn.”
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