In-form NYCFC staying grounded ahead of Red Bulls rematch

Patrick Vieira NYCFC Instructions 1

by CHRISTIAN ARAOS

New York City FC enters its third meeting with the New York Red Bulls in its best form of the season. They’ve won of five of its last six matches including wins over each of the top four teams in the Eastern Conference. To continue that run and win the season series, head coach Patrick Vieira said he’s looking for his side to keep its humility.

“We’re going to go there knowing that it will be a difficult place to go and dictate the game and try to play,” Vieira said. “We know what to expect from them and we will have to go there and be brave and try to play the way we did in the last few weeks and months.”

Since the 7–0 loss to the Red Bulls, NYCFC have collected 16 out of an available 21 points, whereas the Red Bulls garnered just 12 from a possible 24. That has widened the gap between the two teams to five points heading into Sunday afternoon’s match. Midfielder Thomas McNamara said the team has been playing better as a collective during this run. Last week he assisted on both Jack Harrison’s and David Villa’s goals in the win against the Montreal Impact.

“We’ve been better at finishing our chances than maybe earlier in the year,” McNamara said. “We’ve consistently created chances in our games but we’ve been a little bit more clinical in front of the goal.”

McNamara now has eight assists this season, trailing only Mauro Diaz and Sacha Kljestan. He set a career high in minutes played last week and has four assists in the last six games. He said Harrison and Villa’s ability to stretch the opposing defense allows him to be a better creator. Coming into Sunday’s match, he expects City to stay out of the fray and cope with a potentially chippy match.

“We did a good job last time we played them,” McNamara said. “How we prepared for the game with the full week and we were ready to go because we focused on ourselves. I think as long as we do the same this week, we’ll be in a good spot and it should make for a good game.”

The previous two meetings have featured some hard challenges and violent skirmishes. Recently, provocative comments have also crept into the narrative, particularly from the Red Bull camp. After the May 21 meeting, Red Bulls head coach Jesse Marsch took offense to Villa’s comment that NYCFC would have lost against anyone with how they played. The aftermath of the July 3 match saw the Red Bulls voice their indignation with NYCFC posting a team victory photo on social media.

“They made it look like they won Champions League,” goalkeeper Luis Robles told the Caught Offside podcast. “And for not only the players but the coaches, the backroom staff…I mean in a sense there’s definitely going to be more gratification beating them and just treating it as business as usual looking back at that sort of picture.” Villa scored his first goal against the Red Bulls that match and scored the opener last weekend.

An embodiment of Vieira’s attempts to create a professional culture at NYCFC, Villa is familiar with pre-derby mind games from his time at Atletico Madrid and FC Barcelona. This week, Marsch said Villa receives favorable treatment from the referees. Villa could not respond to those commentsdirectly since they came after NYCFC held their weekly media availability. He did, however, offer that this match is an important one for the fans but with only the same impact as any other match.

“It’s the same importance as the last game in Montreal, the same as the next one against Colorado,” Villa said. “We need to work well during the week cause we want to get the three points. We know we are five points up on the Red Bulls, it’s one of the rivals fighting for the playoffs in our conference. It would be very good for us to get the three points but we need to work a lot before the game.”

A win Sunday would move NYCFC eight points up on the Red Bulls in the standings. Though their rivals have been eager to express their excitement for Sunday’s match, NYCFC are still the team that suspended two players for a Fox Sports social media video.

“We’ve been playing well for quite a long time,” Vieira said. “We have a better understanding of our discipline. We are more disciplined on the field and that’s allowed us to play a little bit more. Our philosophy hasn’t changed since the day I took charge and I think having this type of continuity game after game helps us to win games now.”