For the Red Bulls, it’s been a bitter rivalry since NYCFC joined Major League Soccer in 2015 and the “Hudson River Derby” will be renewed this Sunday night when the Red Bulls host their rivals from the Bronx at Red Bull Arena with kickoff set for 630pm. It should be a festive atmosphere for those who are on the field and in the stands in Harrison.
For some players, it’s going to be the first taste of what this rivalry I all about.
“I’m very excited,” said Red Bulls defender Amro Tarek during a phone conversation this week with New York Sports Day. “It’s my first Derby and I think every player is just waiting for these kind of games. It’s going to be and exciting game and we are ready to win.”
This is a pretty significant match as the two local clubs are battling for playoff position in the Eastern Conference. Heading into play this weekend, NYCFC sits in 5th place in the East with 29 points (7 wins, two losses, and eight draws) while the Red Bulls are just a point behind (8 wins, 7 losses and 4 draws) meaning that if the season were to be over right now, both teams would be on the road for opening round knockout games in the MLS Cup Playoffs.
For the Red Bulls, who are coming off of a 3-3 draw in Atlanta thanks to a game tying goal from Bradley Wright-Phillips late in stoppage time, it’s another big challenge on Sunday evening on their home pitch.
“They are a very good team,” said Tarek, the Egyptian defender who was acquired during the off-season from Orlando. “They have very good offensive players. They’ve only lost two games this season but we’re going to go after them.”
Tarek, and the rest of the Red Bulls, will be paying close attention to some dangerous NYCFC players including midfielder Maximilliano Moralez and forward ZHeber Araujo dos Santos who are tied for the team lead with six goals apiece. Forward Valentin Castellanos is also a threat to beat Red Bulls goalkeeper Luis Robles as he has found the back of the net five times this season.
It will certainly be a tough task for the Red Bulls who could leapfrog NYCFC with a win on Sunday and they could also get themselves closer to the top of the East as they currently trail first place Philadelphia by eight points. It’s a huge match in terms of the rivalry, but it’s also three very important points when you look at the entire Eastern Conference playoff picture.
“I think we take all the games very seriously,” said Tarek. “But I think naturally when you play a team from the same city, there’s going to be extra excitement on the field between the players and the fans. Every game is very important for us. They are above us so we need to win and we need to keep winning to reach our goal.”
This will be the fifteenth regular season meeting between the Red Bulls and NYCFC with the Red Bulls leading the all-time series eight wins to four with two draws. For the moment, the standings dictate that this match could be the most significant and the two rivals will meet again on August 24th at Yankee Stadium.
Red Bull Arena will certainly be rocking on Sunday night.