“As long as we don’t get swept” seems to be the phrase a lot of Red Bulls fans are murmuring to themselves as they look to the NYCFC match. There has not been much to go off from the first meeting earlier in the season, and the second loss was purely David Villa being, well, David Villa. If anything, the Red Bulls should be able to go into this match with a clean slate and attack NYCFC for all they are worth.
There is just one problem. They have been worth a whole lot this season. After their hiccup against Toronto FC at the end of July, the club has won its last three matches, scoring seven goals total. Villa literally cannot stop scoring, with a goal in seven of the last eight matches he has played in. It goes without saying that, again, he will be the man to stop for NYCFC.
There is also trouble right next to Villa in attack. Youngster Jonathan Lewis has scored in back to back matches for his club and looks to be a solid choice to start against the Red Bulls. Lewis was drafted in January by the club and will hope to improve more as the season goes on, with this weekend being his second opportunity to shine in the derby.
For the Red Bulls, their rough yet slightly expected loss to the Timbers will only be fuel for the fire that coach Jesse Marsch hopes to light under his offense. The team was shutout 2-0 in Portland just three days after a phenomenal come from behind victory in the semi-final matchup against FC Cincinnati. Many of the usual starters were benched, but Veron and company could not muster a goal despite having two high quality chances in the dying minutes of the match.
Coming off of the nice seven day break will hopefully do wonders for Bradley Wright-Phillips, who was an unused sub in the Portland match. The striker has been in his usual form this year and has netted in his last five matches. NYCFC knows all too well about the dangers of BWP as he scored twice against them in the last meeting at Yankee Stadium.
One man who will sadly not be returning to the lineup is Daniel Royer. He is still out with a knee injury suffered in the last derby match and is missed more and more every match the team plays without him. Alex Muyl and Sean Davis are full of energy and make solid choices to start up top, but Royer’s ability to hold up play and finish confidentially are always nice to have on the field.
The Red Bulls also lost Aurelien Collin early in the Portland match as the big Frenchman went down with a foot injury. It is still up in the air as to whether he will feature against NYCFC, so Fidel Escobar could see his second start as a Red Bull. Escobar was very solid against Portland and looks to be a very solid signing. Marsch should feel even less pressure to rush Collin back due to the options he has in defense.
In the standings, the Red Bulls seem to be in a pretty decent spot. The club sits in fifth place in the Eastern Conference with three games in hand over fourth place Columbus Crew. The end of the season schedule also has the Red Bulls playing a lot of Eastern Conference teams, so the points will start becoming even more important.
Going into the derby, it is not too much to ask to get at least one point. The team has had plenty of time to rest and there is a lot of pride at stake surrounding this match. Getting swept by your rivals never looks good, especially when you are fighting for a playoff spot. The atmosphere should be rocking as it always is on derby day. The only question is whether or not the Red Bulls can come out on top.