When does a tie feel like a loss? When you get your rival in your park and throw everything but the kitchen sink at them and they refuse to fold. When the smallest player on the field sets up the goal that breaks your heart and you are fortunate to get a penalty equalizer but still fall short. That is what the New York Red Bulls have to show for their effort tonight. One point. NYCFC (14-7-5 47 pts.) leaves knowing they took the Reds best shots and still leave with points and the knowledge that they are equals after all with their cross river rivals.
The latest version of the Hudson River Derby saw the Red Bulls come out playing most of the game in NYCFC territory. They contained the great David Villa, who scored three times the last time these two met as Aaron Long found redemption after the Spanish star had his way with him in Yankee Stadium two weeks back.
The first half was a brilliant display of good crisp soccer from both sides. The Blues found success by packing it in and being patient for counter-attacking opportunities off-setting Red Bull Head coach Jesse Marsch’s attempts to use his defenders as wingers. But they were infrequent and after 45 minutes no goals were scored.
“When we’re pressing and defending it’s to make sure there’s not a lot of space in the midfield,” Marsch said, “They laid off so much that those two wound up being the free players a lot. I never see them sit that deep ever.” It was certainly what NYCFC Head coach Patrick Vieira was looking for.
“Our game plan was to be compact and not let them play in between the lines and we managed to do it well,” Vieira said, “You have to concede a few chances but we did quite well.”
The team that scored first was going to win this game. The Red Bulls thought they had it on two occasions when Bradley Wright-Phillips honed in on a very makeable header in the air in front of goal but was muscled off just as he was about to make contact.
“They made a play. It’s a foul and doesn’t get called. It should be in the referees hands,” said Marsch.
This is when Argentine Max Moralez was rewarded for a period of marking he engaged in with bigger defenders. This was also where David Villa showed his greatness as he received a pass in transition from R.J. Allen, who was playing at this juncture only because of a calf injury to Ethan White that flared up. Villa received it in the key and one touched it forward to Maxi in the box and he left footed it under the leg of Luis Robles for the score that broke the glass.
“They were able to bottle us up and we hit posts and doing a lot of things that almost created goals and it didn’t come and then we had to chase the game a little bit,” said Marsch.
But the Blues did not stop probing. NYCFC started taking the play away when Red Bull captain Sacha Kljestan was tripped in the box. It screamed for a yellow that never came. It made the second time he penetrated the box and drew a card laughable as it was soft in comparison to the previous infraction. But Gonzalo Veron took the spot kick and evened matters and with twenty minutes to play it looked like another comeback win was in the cards as it had been in the U.S Open Cup semi-final in Cincinnati.
“I feel like we really stayed after the game,” Marsch said, “The game was there for either team to take. We tried to find ways to go after it without exposing ourselves but in the late stages it was a little tricky.”
But there was not much left as these two titans became two heavyweights out of gas laying on each other to the conclusion. The rivalry sees the Red Bulls (12-10-3, 39 pts.) winning only one out of four contests against their city counterparts and with a two-game losing streak saw an opportunity to get into fourth place in the East pass them by. But both sides seemed content if not totally pleased.
“I’m happy with the points,” Vieira said, “We are getting a better balance between playing well and making the right decisions and taking risks. We are less naive than we were last year.” Jesse shared the Red Bulls team general feeling afterwards.
“There were a lot of guys really disappointed in the locker room,” Marsch said, “And it’s obvious why. It’s a big rival.”
The Red Bulls start the final nine games of the season with a two-game road trip at FC Dallas on September 2nd followed by a visit to Chicago against the Fire on the 9th before returning home on the 17th against the Philadelphia Union.