The Hudson River Derby competition may be decided, but the battle for New York supremacy will rage until the end of time (or somebody moves). That battle will continue this Friday as the Red Bulls battle NYC FC in an MLS Rivalry Week rubber match.
We spoke to Hudson River Blue writer and future Connecticut real estate hunter Jake Gofman to give us the rundown on what Red Bulls fans should know heading into the Friday night fight:
Q1. David Villa seems like a lock to win his 2nd MLS MVP award the Golden Boot, and become the first player to record 20+ goals in back-to-back seasons. Forget best designated player or even best player in the league today, how likely is it that he retires as the best player in MLS history?
Gofman: Oh what a time to be alive and have David Villa in New York. Last time we exchanged questions, you asked about David Villa and how long he'd stick around New York. I mentioned at the time I thought Villa was playing better than he ever had, defying age and conventional wisdom. Since then he's helped to continue to reiterate this, scoring his first ever hattrick against RBNY and adding a goal each against LA and New England, as well as the GW assist in the 94th against the Revs.
Despite how well he's played and is playing, and how he may go another 2-3 seasons with 15-20 goals per, I doubt he ends up as the league's all-time greatest. There's just not enough time for the 35 year old and time will, inevitably, catch up and slow down El Guaje. Donovan is still the greatest in my estimation in MLS history, and there's a guy in Toronto that has the best shot (in my opinion) of catching Donovan's gaudy goal scoring and assist numbers. Likely, Villa will have to rest with being an all-time goal-scoring great and NYC FC's greatest player.
Q2. Jonathan Lewis has lately emerged as a rising star on the NYC FC roster. What are his strengths and what might it take to prevent him from doing damage to the Red Bulls in the next game?
Supporters who have followed the team closely this year have clamored for Lewis's involvement as a highly touted draft pick in the most recent draft. It took some bad performances from Tommy McNamara and an injury to Rodney Wallace to force Vieira to insert Lewis, and since then it's been difficult to take him out.
Lewis is at his best in space. He has blazing speed and a fullback has to choose between timing a tackle to close the space or laying off and risk getting burned. He has enough foot skills to actually beat you off the dribble, but he relies heavily on his speed and he loves to take his defender down the line and deliver a cross.
To stop Lewis, RBNY fullbacks will have to be smart. Lewis doesn't have a history of cutting it inside when he's one-v-one, so whoever is picking him up may want to try to force him that direction. Best case, get to him as soon as possible and force him to have to make a good pass. If you let Lewis gather and size up, you're as good as dead.
Q3. The Red Bulls came up short last time around but will have the home crowd behind them for this one. What should they do to avoid a repeat of the last two games?
NYC FC took the big win in June in Harrison but the Red Bulls were a completely different team last time we played. The inclusion of several key players and the formation change made this more recent match more competitive.
I think it could have gone either way, and if not for the brilliance of David Villa, we might be talking about a draw or even a split series heading into round three.
To beat New York, look first at slowing down their attack. Harrison, Villa and Moralez are dynamic when on the ball, but if they're closed down quickly they're mortal. Better yet, an organized press, one RBNY is capable of running, can overwhelm the supply between our back four and holding midfield and our attacking players.
To score goals against NYC FC, go nowhere near Alexander Ring in the middle of the park. Instead, attack our fullbacks. Sweat and Allen are not first choice players for New York, and they're liable to make mistakes if attacked consistently. Beat New York down the line and deliver the killer balls and you can take all three points. Allow David Villa and co. the time and space they need to score goals and NYC will sweep the series. (Author’s Note: It would only be an MLS sweep, not a season sweep as the Red Bulls beat NYC FC earlier this year in the Open Cup 5th round)
Predicted XI: Johnson; Sweat, Callens, Brillant, Allen; Ring, Moralez, Lopez; Wallace, Villa, Harrison
Injured: Out - Camargo, Chanot, Matarrita
Duty/Suspension: Sands (U.S. U17), Yangel Herrera (Suspended)