Turning back the clock: A look at the New York derbies of yesteryear

Remember these guys? - Mike Stobe

Saturday won't be the first time two New York area teams have gone at it.

Despite the fervor around the upcoming match from some circles, Saturday's Cosmos-Red Bulls game won't be the first modern professional New York Derby.

While the Red Bulls have had the run of the city at American soccer's top level for 18 years, and "flux" is probably a kind word for the state of the country's lower leagues, the MetroStars/Red Bulls have played metropolitan area rivals 10 times over the years in various friendlies, posting a 10-3-0 record, and three times in the Open Cup, winning two and losing one.

So while Saturday might be "the match we've hungered for," it's not quite the "New York soccer history" that it's been called.

Because it's happened before -- although, maybe the quality wasn't as much there -- so let's take a look at some of the New York derbies of the past.

The Grapple for the Apple/1997 Open Cup Quarterfinal: Long Island Rough Riders vs. MetroStars

Saturday's match won't be judged against the August 28 MetroStars-Rough Riders Open Cup game that saw the Metros advance.

It'll be a friendly between the two sides roughly a month beforehand.

Between 1997 and 2000 the Rough Riders and the MetroStars played an annual summer friendly on Long Island, but the first holds the high watermark in the series. By Big Apple Soccer's account, More than 11,000 spectators showed up at Hofstra's Shuart Stadium for the so-called Grapple for the Apple, enough to create a traffic nightmare pushing kick-off back from 7 p.m. to 7:45 p.m.

When the game finally did start, the MetroStars were without World Cup veterans Roberto Donnadoni and Tab Ramos, but played several regulars.

Those regulars were beaten 2-1, but accounts from the game cited in the Big Apple Soccer story suggest it could've been a much harsher result for the MetroStars.

When the two teams met up July 30 for an Open Cup quarterfinal, there was considerably less fanfare. Roughly 1,120 turned up to Stony Brook University to see the game, one that ended with a much better result for the Metros: a 1-0 extra time win. Rhett Hardy was the goalscorer, redirecting a Roberto Donnadoni free-kick into the back of the net to advance.

If the Rough Riders were able to come away with the victory, it would have been their second MLS scalp, as they downed the New England Revolution 4-3 in the third round. Even with the less-than-favorable result, the loss was painted as a moral victory for the minor league side in the New York Times' account (which comes complete with some hand-wringing over the fledgling league's credibility).

The MetroStars would go on to lose, as would become habit, to the Dallas Burn (now FC Dallas) 2-1.

1999 Open Cup Third Round: MetroStars vs. Staten Island Vipers

Mercifully played in front of a shade over 1,000 spectators at Rutgers' Yurack Field on July 13, the hapless MetroStars crashed out late to the A-League Staten Island Vipers.

Despite all his coaching pedigree -- he lead the U.S. to the knockout round on home soil at the 1994 World Cup -- Bora Milutinovic had the MetroStars limping into cup play with a 5-12 record. Meanwhile, the Vipers had won six straight and were touting a 10-4 record.

Ernest Inneh would give the Vipers a first half lead, but the MetroStars stayed in it, even after losing a man thanks to an Eduardo Hurtado red in the 58th minute. Billy Walsh would score two, first in the 69th minute to tie things up, then in the 81st for the lead.

But just four minutes later the Vipers would bring things level courtesy substitute Lee Tschantret and five minutes into extra time Kevin Wilson would end it.

If there's any silver lining, it's that the MetroStars picked the right year to lose. 1999 was the last year a non-MLS team, the Rochester Rhinos, would hoist the Open Cup, and three of the six quarterfinalists and two of the four semifinalists came from outside the top flight.

Since, most MLS teams dispatch their lower league counterparts early on. Though it's not uncommon for a team outside MLS to sneak into the later rounds, it stopped being as common place after 1999.

As for the 1999 MetroStars, they'd win just two more games and Milutinovic would be relieved of his duties after the season ended.

2011 Open Cup Third Round: Red Bulls vs. FC New York

Given the events that took place afterward, you have to wonder if fans wished the Red Bulls just lost this one.

USL side FC New York thumped the Western Massachusetts Pioneers in the first round and Open Cup stalwarts New York Pancyprian Freedoms in the second round to set up the cross-city match-up.

And FC New York kept that momentum up -- they'd score first courtesy a blast from Owen Morrison -- but the Red Bulls would respond with goals from Corey Hertzog and John Rooney to secure the Red Bulls a fourth round berth against the Chicago Fire.

So they avoided the embarrassment, if only temporarily.


Normally, you wave away what happened next to "that's so Metro," blaming it on the malaise that's seemed to follow the team from the start. But this was entirely self inflicted. Then-Head Coach Hans Backe sent a squad of 14 reserves -- not even enough to fill out the whole bench -- to take on the Fire, while enlisting current Head Coach Mike Petke, then in the front office, and present day Whitecaps Head Coach (but then-injured midfielder) Carl Robinson to patrol the touchline.

I'm not sure either's record reflects it, but it was the kind-of, sort-of managerial debut for both. And I'm sure it's a memory neither of them cherish.

They were torched 4-0in a tournament where the other results meant an easy road to the final, as the Richmond Kickers knocked off Sporting Kansas City in the other quarterfinal.

As for FC New York, they dropped out of the USL the very next season. They reformed as an NPSL side and are probably best remembered for wearing Mitt Romney campaign ads on their jerseys.

They no longer exist.

Thanks go out to MetroFanatic for so laboriously logging all the matches, stats and rosters for the team, stretching back to 1996 so I could dig back through team records to write this story.

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