Dos a Cero Does It for NYCFC

Photograph by Matt Kremkau

By JACK BELL

Red Bulls logoHARRISON, N.J. — New York City FC beat the New York Red Bulls at their own high-pressing, high-pressure, counterattacking game.

Jack Harrison scored in the first half and Ben Sweat added a goal early in the second half of NYCFC’s 2-0 victory at Red Bull Arena on Saturday afternoon. The win, the club’s third in a row in Major League Soccer, was the first in four tries for the Blue team on the road in the Hudson River Derby, and only its second win against its Red team rivals in six league games over three years.

The NYCFC fans tucked into the upper reaches of the north end stadium broke into a spontaneous chant of “Dos a Cero” seconds after Sweat’s header spun over and past Red Bulls goalkeeper Luis Robles.

“We played against a team that runs for 90 minutes, presses high and makes things difficult,” NYCFC Coach Patrick Vieira said. “If we wanted to give ourselves a chance we needed to match their desire, and we did well today. We made it difficult for them. We matched their desire and their competitiveness.

“If you look at the past games, they always wanted it more.”

On Saturday NYCFC clearly did.

“You have to give them credit,” Red Bulls Coach Jesse Marsch said. “They adjusted physically [compared to the U.S. Open Cup match a few weeks ago], got more into the game and were able to overrun us.”

NYCFC (9-5-3, 30 points) had the best chance of the first 20 minutes in a game that started out chippy and disjointed. David Villa slipped a pass to Rodney Wallace inside the six-yard box. Wallace passed to an unmarked Harrison, whose left-footed shot from the right side forced Red Bulls’ goalkeeper to make a diving save to his right to swat away the curling shot.

The Red Bulls’ first, and best chance for the first quarter-hour came from a Sacha Kljestan‘s corner kick that was powered over the crossbar by an unmarked Daniel Royer. The New York (7-8-2, 23) midfielder probably should have done better. NYCFC’s defense was taut all game long, limiting the Red Bulls to a single shot on frame.

The Red Bulls’ struggles on offense continued — the club has scored a paltry 17 goals in 17 games, and Marsch acknowledged after the match that the club is seeking a reinforcement or two on offense. “We just need to be sharper in the attacking third,” Marsch said.

Asked if he is inclined the tweak his approach, Marsch was clear and emphatic: “We’re not changing. It’s a matter of how good can we be with what we do. This is who we are. We’re proud of who we are.”

Marsch also deflected questions about his week spent in Poland attending a UEFA coaching course, and added that he would also be away from the club in a couple of weeks for a US Soccer session.

Photograph by Matt Kremkau

“Me being gone had nothing to do with it,” Marsch said. “I have respect and confidence in the club, the coaching staff and the players. It’s not about me. I’m the leader in charge and will take the blame when we don’t do well. I have to look in the mirror and take responsibility. This is when these classes are held, usually during international breaks.”

NYCFC broke through in the 33rd minute and gave the game the shot in the arm it needed. Wallace held the ball on the left side of the penalty area and rolled a pass to the overlapping defender Sweat. Sweat pulled it back for the lurking Harrison for a bending, left-footed shot that sailed over the glove of Robles and into the upper-right corner of the goal. It was Harrison’s seventh goal of the season.

Minutes later Villa nearly made it 2-0 when his free kick from an extreme angle on the left flank was a well-disguised shot on target that forced Robles to punch clear.

The visitors were at it again late in the first half. Villa danced past two defenders as he hauled the ball from just inside the halfway line to about 30 yards out. He passed to Yangel Herrera, who turned an unleashed a hard right-footed shot that again forced Robles to make a leaping save.

NYCFC doubled its advantage a little more than 15 minutes into the second half. Alexander Ring launched a long, diagonal free kick that found an unmarked Sweat at the near post. His looping header eluded Robles and settled inside the near post.

“On the day, were just were not good enough,” Marsch said. “We need to find ways to get better. It’s that simple.”