For the second time in ten days, the Red Bulls will be hosting NYC FC in what has quickly become one of the most bitter rivalries in American soccer. Though the Red Bulls eked out a 1-0 win against the Cityzens in their U.S. Open Cup matchup, their blue rivals don't intend to let New York stay red for long.
We invited Jake Gofman of Hudson River Blue to the Once A Metro Command Centre to return the seats taken from Red Bull Arena and answer a few pressing questions about this latest edition of the Hudson River Derby (or New York Derby if you're Don Garber and co):
Once A Metro: What kind of tactics are NYC FC using right now and how would you go about beating them?
Jake G., Hudson River Blue: Patrick Vieira is a coach that is steadfast in his ways, so the team tactics you're seeing today are the same as those that he instilled when he joined NYC FC as the coach. The only difference is he's brought in players that can execute his strategy and that's one of the main reasons NYC FC is a stronger all-around team this year as opposed to the team that flamed out of the postseason spectacularly last season. Vieira continues to push New York to play out the back and build a steady attack through possession. With the 4-3-3 formation, it's very important the deep-lying midfielders (Alexander Ring and Yangel Herrera) are able to distribute under pressure to the four attacking players. Villa, Moralez (who is out this week), Harrison and Wallace are all capable playmakers and a threat to score, so when the ball rolls through to one of them, it becomes about the interplay between the players to find opportunities to score. Defensively, NYC has shielded itself with 4-6 players at the back at all times. Some combination of our two CBs and the wing backs and deeper lying midfielders are covering when the ball is turned over, and this has prevented New York from being caught out on the break as often this year in comparison to last year.
To beat New York City you play like RBNY, unfortunately for NYC FC. Pressing is the most effective means for breaking up our attack before it can get started. With our formation, we are naturally giving the opposition an advantage in the midfield by separating the four attack-minded players from the the other two midfielders. Ring and Herrera are good ball distributors, but they will be pressed into making difficult passes or risk losing the ball by Red Bulls. As with any pressing team, beating New York will rely on getting those turnovers in New York's half and capitalizing on the chances.
Other teams have tried the high press on New York City but it's obvious which teams have made it a staple of their defensive tactics and which teams are superficially breaking it out for the occasion. Red Bulls present the most difficult challenge because that pressure is in their DNA (queue Kendrick).
OaM: The NYC defense is noticeably better this year than the two years before. What do you attribute that to?
Jake G., Hudson River Blue: Stability in our CB pairing for starters. I think the tactics have changed a little and we are covering better as I mentioned above, but having two capable CBs has been instrumental in our success. Maxine Chanot, who was acquired midseason last year, and Alexander Callens, who was brought in over the summer, have started nearly every game side by side and have, for the most part, marshaled the defense in a way past CBs could not.
Add in the two midfielders brought in over the summer - Alexander Ring, a box-to-box cagey no 8 and Yangel Herrera, a Man City youth product that is a CDM through and through - and you can understand how this set-up is an improvement over Lampard, Pirlo and Iraola, defensively. Oh and Sean Johnson in goal has been a massive upgrade over Josh Saunders.
There are a lot of factors to point to, but I think what gets overlooked is how well Callens and Chanot have played together this year.
OaM: The Hudson River Derby has evolved into one of the best in MLS extremely quickly. Is that more of a result of the play on the field or the hatred our fans seem to show one another?
Jake G., Hudson River Blue: This question is a trap, and I'm triggered having to answer it. *in overly sarcastic tone* I am obliged to remind your readers, who already know, that RBNY has played NYC FC off the pitch for much of our rivalry, so I would have to say the fans and MLS's over-the-top marketing have been the catalyst for making the Hudson River Derby MLS's biggest Rivalry.
For what it's worth, the players seem to not get along at times either, and that has helped fans get fired up about the game within the game. However, for this to evolve into a real rivalry, New York City is going to have to show up and play well. The stakes are set, as both teams are again eyeing Playoff appearances, but (to me) the product on the field has to be compelling. NYC FC has all it needs to compete well against Red Bulls, and as a fan, that's all I can ask for coming into this game.
Injuries: Two big losses coming into the match - M Maxi Moralez and D Ronald Matarrita will both sit, as well as F Khiry Shelton.
Accumulation Warnings: Ethan White (needs 5 games w/o yellow card to avoid suspension)
Predicted XI: Sean Johnson; Ben Sweat, Alexander Callens, Maxime Chanot, Ethan White; Alexander Ring, Jack Harrison, Yangel Herrera; Rodney Wallace, David Villa, Jonathan Lewis
Predicted Score: Playing in Harrison is no fun for New York City, but they just had a taste of it and played one good half of soccer before playing a poor second one. I think the team comes out strong again, scoring first, but Red Bulls play this one to a 1-1 draw.