"This match felt like a proper derby," said Shaun Wright-Phillips after the New York Red Bulls pulsating 3-2 win over Philadelphia Union. The 34-year-old doesn't get a lot of playing time for RBNY, but he has been part of the squad for the last two seasons and he has seen a lot of soccer up close in his career.
"They were giving us a battle and we gave it right back. The stadium sounded loud, and I hope this will show everyone that MLS is a strong league," said the former Manchester City, Chelsea, Queens Park Rangers and England player.
Five goals, some outstanding saves, two teams matching each other goal for goal, until RBNY captain Dax McCarty gave his side the last word: if you didn't enjoy this game, soccer might not be for you.
The match had an edge to it because it meant something to both teams: Philadelphia Union was hoping to clinch a playoff spot, RBNY wanted to get back to the top of the Eastern Conference.
Fabian Herbers found a way to get the Union on the board first, in the 15th minute. From the top of the area, he sent a shot skipping past Luis Robles, aided by a slight deflection. This was the Union's third game against RBNY this season, but the first time it had scored first.
The Red Bulls weren't out it. Union 'keeper Andre Blake was in solid form, however, and repelled a string of RBNY attacks. Until the cusp of half-time, when Sacha Kljestan found the equalizer.
That goal saw RBNY come out for the second half with focus and momentum. Bradley Wright-Phillips put the home team in front almost immediately after the restart, thrashing his 21st goal of the season past a helpless Blake.
The goal put BWP back into a tie with David Villa of NYCFC for top spot in the Golden Boot race. " I was thinking about keeping it low and getting decent contact, it was a great ball from Dax." said the Red Bulls all-time top scorer, "It was a great reaction from the team when we were a goal down, we needed to get a shot in the mouth. When David Villa scored against Houston I knew I had to score and I usually don't think about scoring goals, but this time I did."
Eight minutes later, the Union leveled the match through - who else? - Chris Pontius, a man who has made a career out of torturing RBNY.
The match winner came in the 66th minute. Felipe and Sacha Kljestan hovered over a free kick, before the Red Bulls' set-piece-taker-in-chief floated the ball to the far post, where Dax McCarty was unmarked and ready to take his chance.
It was a tough game for RBNY, fighting back twice to ultimately claim three points. Jesse Marsch was understandably pleased: "I think Philly is a very good team that played hard and made it hard on us. This was a very good game for the fans and for the league as well." said Marsch, "For us I think to get smacked in the mouth twice, to go down and when things were good at 2-1 we got hit again and we came back and were more focused and concentrated. I told them after the game that when things get tougher we will get better. I was so happy with how this group has come together in the right way."
The Red Bulls now take a break, along with most of the rest of the league, for the FIFA October international window. They will return to take on Columbus Crew at Red Bull Arena on October 16, the same match-up that ended their 2015 playoff run. And then the regular season will conclude with a rematch with the Union on the road on October 23. The spirit and determination shown in this match will be needed for those ahead if RBNY is to hang on to its place at the top of the Eastern Conference after 34 games have been played and the post-season begins.