The New York Red Bulls are in a Groundhog Day lifestyle right now, though the result is far from bleak. A win over Chicago Fire at home to finish June, 3-1, and a hard-fought 3-3 draw on the road against rival Atlanta United FC last weekend are great results. The problem lies in the big, ugly 4-0 loss on the road against the Houston Dynamo midweek between those two games.
The Red Bulls are following the same pattern they set in May, with a great win, followed by a stumble mid-week only to relatively rebound only a few days later. Now the team is heading into the Hudson River Derby, one of, if not the, biggest rivalry of the year, as it takes on New York City FC at home in Harrison. The game is expected to be one of the most well attended this season – possibly comparable to the 18,495 that filled the reduced capacity space back in May for the first Atlanta match.
New York City has been a strange team to say the least. The team started the year win-less through six, with one loss and five draws, as it and the Red Bulls wallowed in the bottom half of the Eastern Conference. Since then, the team has only lost once through 11 with seven wins to their name and a 5th spot on the table.
The team’s defense has been a critical part of this turnaround and one key figure in the back-line has been Maxime Chanot. The Luxembourg international has started in and played all 17 of his team’s games without being subbed off – a grand total of 1,530 minutes played. Combine that with 27 successful tackles, a rate of 71% completion, and 28 interceptions and it’s no surprise to see he and the usual back-line of Anton Tinnerholm and Alexander Callens have helped the team keep the lowest goals scored against rate in the Eastern Conference with 20 (RBNY meanwhile has allowed 27 through 19 games for comparison).
The Red Bulls will need to focus on offense coming into this game. The team’s last game against Atlanta reinforced the fact that multiple threats on the field can produce results. The two leading goal scorers this season, Daniel Royer and Brian White, both scored in order to take the lead while the organization’s all-time leading scorer, Bradley Wright-Phillips, was able to find space and score the 90+3′ minute equalizer after defending league MVP Josef Martínez had seemingly won it for his team.
The NYCFC defense, which the Red Bulls haven’t played this season since the seemingly yearly meeting in the U.S. Open Cup never game to be, isn’t something the team has faced, Opening up new targets on the field and getting around the defense with long passes and crosses will probably be the key to success. This isn’t a team that can be scored on seven times in one game but one or two might be enough – like how Portland Timbers squeaked out a win only last week against the side at Yankee Stadium.
Both teams will also be at full-strength relatively with no Gold Cup or national team duty calling players away. The Red Bulls will have Aaron Long, Kemar Lawrence, and Derrick Etienne Jr. among others while City will be able to field players such as defender Alexander Callens and goalkeeper Sean Johnson among others if needed.
Another interesting note heading into the game is the fact that the three main supporters groups between the two teams (RBNY’s Empire Supporters Club and Viking Army, along with The Third Rail from NYCFC) announced the creation of the Hudson River Derby Foundation recently. The foundation, run by volunteer supporters, will help fuel the rivalry between the two teams through friendly competition and the creation of a trophy to be awarded at the end of the season. This will act in a similar fashion to the ever popular Cascadia Cup played for between the Timbers, Seattle Sounders, and Vancouver Whitecaps.
It continues to be a crazy week for soccer in the New York City Area. FC Motown and the New York Cosmos are both making runs in the National Premier Soccer League (Fourth Division) playoffs after winning their respective conferences, New York Red Bulls II just had an incredible comeback win on the road against Bethel Steel FC before scoring eight against Atlanta United 2 on Saturday in USL Championship, and NYCFC itself just lost on penalty kicks to Orlando City SC in the U.S. Open Cup quarterfinals on Wednesday night.
With the visiting team coming in on short rest and heartbreak fresh in its’ mind it’s sure to be an unpredictable day. The Red Bulls will be coming off a long rest following the difficult set of games last week and will continue that trend with another pair of away games coming during the next seven days.