Over 30,000 enthusiastic soccer fans witnessed their World Cup Sunday evening at Yankee Stadium and when NYCFC and the Red Bulls of New Jersey meet in a match known as the Hudson River Derby they want supremacy. And every game with these rivals is intense.
This is not the Yankees and Mets in their annual interleague series on the baseball diamond, and you ask the fans of both teams who say this is better. Minutes before Maxi Moralez scored in the 85th minute to give NYCFC the 1-0 victory you could hear their fans and their version of the Bleacher Creatures in left field:
“Go Back To New Jersey,” they chanted. The Red Bulls have known that Yankee Stadium is not their favorite venue and have lost their last three in the Bronx and enthusiastic fans for the home team won’t make it easier.
This has become the intense rivalry in New York sports. The only other that can compete is Yankees-Red Sox and if soccer in New York did not have that competition of mainstream sports, perhaps the match would get the exposure that is deserved.
But those fans and that intensity on the field will tell you otherwise about how huge this rivalry has become.
Head coach Domenec Torrent, in his second match since taking over for Patrick Vieira, said “I’m very proud of our players. It was not easy to play in this intensity and they played with soul. The most important thing, I say many times, you have to play with passion in derbies especially.”
And whether it was passion in this game or not, this was the New York version of the World Cup. Two of the premiere MLS players in goal, Sean Johnson of NYCFC and Luis Robles of the Red Bulls, paced that intensity. Johnson in the 90th minute stopped a near-post shot by Alex Muyl and made four saves.
Robles had with three saves. With 52 shutouts coming into this one he could not stop that one goal. NYCFC with three points trails first place Atlanta in the East while the Red Bulls are looking up at both in third.
That crowd and intensity got Johnson his sixth clean sheet of the season as NYCFC improved to 8-0-1 at home, up 6-1-3 in this Hudson River Derby. There will be another meeting in the Bronx on August 22nd, and of course both teams could meet in their run for the MLS CUP when it all comes down to the wire in October.
“It was bit of a weird game,” said Johnson. “The first half really had nothing to it. Tactical back and forth, kind of like a chess match. The second half things started picking up a little bit. We executed what we wanted to do today.”
The fans, Johnson said also added to the intensity. He has become accustomed to this rivalry and got the best of his counterpart on the other side.
“It’s a bit disappointing but with that being said it’s on to the next one,” said Robles. And NYCFC for the next one could have injured forwards David Villa and Joe Inge Berget back which could make it more difficult for the Red Bulls and their new head coach Chris Armas.
But for now, and before their next game Wednesday night at home against Montreal, NYCFC has that distinction of this advantage in the Hudson River Derby matchup. Their version of a World Cup went exactly as planned.
“Playing in front of a packed house, I’m pretty sure our fans would not be happy if we lost the third one to them,” said forward Jonathan Lewis. “ It pushes us, so when we have our home support packing the whole stadium it gives us the belief that we can win because they believe in us.”
Lewis is quickly learning about this intensity. He got some late minute action and was not disappointed. Earlier this season, NYCFC lost two times to their rivals.
“Now we look forward to Wednesday’s and Saturday’s game,” said Lewis. But the intensity of those games, even though they mean something, won’t be like it was Sunday night. This is NYCFC and the Red Bulls.
And this is quickly becoming the best rivalry between nearby teams in New York.