When the New York Red Bulls clash with Hudson River rivals New York City F.C. on Saturday, the match will not only have special meaning to the two teams and their fan bases, but to Major League Soccer as a whole.
In its third year, the Hudson River rivalry has produced some memorable matches, as well as some tension between NYCFC and the Red Bulls. Now, MLS has finally found another rivalry that it desperately needs. The Los Angeles rivalry between the LA Galaxy and Chivas USA dissolved after Chivas was disbanded, the Hudson River Derby is now the league’s sole rivalry between two teams in the same market.
“From the first season they’ve been there, I’ve not liked them,” said Red Bulls striker Wright-Phillips.”…I would hope my children do not like NYCFC.”
The MLS currently holds some tense fixtures, like those between the LA Galaxy and the San Jose Earthquakes, the Red Bulls with D.C. United, and especially the rivalry between the Seattle Sounders and the Portland Timbers. But the rivalry between NYCFC and the Red Bulls is of its own kind in the MLS right now.
However, when the teams first played in 2015, the rivalry was more theoretical and less palpable. That hasn’t taken long to change, as the the rivalry has begun to take a shape in recent seasons. The Red Bulls have dominated, winning six of the seven games played between the two teams, including a 7-0 thrashing over NYCFC at Yankee Stadium last season. But NYCFC has slowly begun to hold its own against the Red Bulls, especially considering their ascent in the MLS standings the past two seasons.
Now, with NYCFC standing in third place in the Eastern Conference — two spots above the Red Bulls — Patrick Viera’s team will look get only their second win against the team from Harrison and stake their claim on the Big Apple. “We want to turn things around,” Vieira told MLS.com on Tuesday. “I think when you play seven and lose six, it’s painful. There’s no doubt about it. This is something I’m not happy about and not satisfied about and we have to start turning it around.”
However, the Red Bulls too will have extra motivation for Saturday’s match, especially following a 1-0 victory over NYCFC last week in a U.S. Open Cup fourth round elimination match. The Red Bulls have defeated NYCFC every time the two teams have met at Red Bull Arena. They’ll look to continue that recent trend on Saturday. “The team looks ready, and I think the guys are focused and pumped for Saturday” said Red Bulls defender Kemar Lawrence. “At home the big emphasis is keeping a clean sheet. In these games, the team gets at least one chance, and it’s up to us defensively to not give that up.
“I think if we score early or if we get a goal before they do, it’s going to be tough for them, especially at our place with the fans and everyone behind us,” Lawrence added.
The Red Bulls enter Saturday’s 1:30 p.m. match with a 7-7-2 record in MLS play, good for fifth in the Eastern Conference. They are also coming off a 2-0 victory over the Philadelphia Union last Sunday.
NYCFC is also coming off a hard-fought 2-1 win over Seattle last Saturday. NYCFC currently holds a record of 8-5-3 for the regular season and sits in third in the Eastern Conference. On Tuesday, Spain international Villa doubled down on an earlier assessment that this is the best NYCFC team in the club’s three-year existence. However, he said, the proof comes on the pitch and not on paper.
“I think we have more quality, more talented players. I said this and I believe in my words. I think it’s true, but we need to put it on the pitch,” Villa said. “It’s not only about saying it in the press conference. I think we’ve played well, until now, and I think we have a lot of power in the future because with the passing of the days and the games I think we improve and we are better and better to get ready we hope for the playoffs. We need to show it on the pitch.”
This will be the second meeting between the two teams this year. Following the match, the teams are scheduled to meet two more times in MLS play this season: on Aug. 6 and 25.