It wasn't long ago that the Red Bulls suffered their first loss against the team in Manchester City Blue that plays in the Bronx. First time that the Red Bulls didn't score a goal, didn't get three points and, of course, also the first time that Bradley Wright-Phillips didn't get a goal against NYCFC
While both sides are in the top three of the Eastern Conference, the Red Bulls are quite aware that they want to grab three points at home and continue climbing the table.
"It's a big game and it's the third and final game that will play against them in the regular season this year, it will be the game that will decide the regular season. It's important to us and to the fans, we are a bit disappointed we haven't taken more points in the last couple of games," said Dax McCarty, "We've taken five when we should've taken nine, but NYCFC is the best team on the road and we will give them a big test at Red Bull Arena on Sunday."
Since Jack Harrison was inserted into the lineup by Patrick Vieira, NYCFC has played even better. Harrison in eight matches played has scored three times and assisted twice. His fearlessness and movement off and on the ball has shown him to be a very dangerous player. Surprisingly, perhaps, it is rookie Harrison who will be marked as the danger-man when star-laden NYCFC comes to Harrison.
"I think they have become very confident playing out of the back, Early in the season we felt we could put a lot of pressure on them when they have the ball. We showed what we could do in the seven-goal win and now they are showing confidence in the last game playing with the ball from the back," said Sacha Kljestan, "But also defensively they made a point to go and challenge us, but on a bigger field they won't be able to cover much ground as on small field like Yankee Stadium."
The boost provided by young Harrison notwithstanding, NYCFC is an older side, with several older players - like Andrea Pirlo, Frank Lampard and David Villa. The weather report is calling for temperatures over 90 degrees. The heat might get to those older legs a little more quickly than it does the generally younger Red Bulls.
"I hope it will. I hope that will come down to how we are on the ball and can make them run without the ball. The more possession we have, the more we can dictate the game and make many passes together to make them chase the game. Hopefully we can wear them down and force them to make mistakes and we can take advantage of them."
This will be the sixth match between these two sides that play along the Hudson River. Jesse Marsch has experienced every single one. "For me it's the best rivalry in the league within proximity and bragging rights on the line like a big city that New York is. It's the best city in the country to see how the soccer has come alive here in the city and the Commissioner picking a second team to be here in this area was a great pick."
So for the third time this season, and sixth ever, the New York Red Bulls and NYCFC will meet in a big match-up for those bragging rights. We'll see what happens.