by MARK FISHKIN
Red Bulls fans laughed when MLS boss Don Garber took $100 million from Sheik Mansour, and laughed when New York City FC selected Yankee Stadium as their home field, and laughed when NYCFC stumbled out of the gate, managing only a single win in their first nine, while the Boys in White started unbeaten in seven.
Now the watching and loathing from afar is over, and the first ever Hudson Derby is here.
The Red Bulls have cooled off a bit, and City is still trying to figure out how to win, but the city’s, region’s, and nation’s soccer media will travel to Harrison to watch the how the teams and the fan bases perform on Sunday night.
Who will draw first blood in the rivalry that the league so desperately wanted?
Sunday, May 10th at Red Bull Arena, 7:00p ET kickoff, TV/Streaming: Fox Sports 1/Fox Sports Go
Referee: Alan Kelly
Record, GF/GA, Division and League Position, Recent Form:
New York Red Bulls, 13 points from 8 matches, 12 GF/8 GA, 3rd in the East, t-7th in MLS, DWDDL
New York City FC, 6 points from 9 matches, 6 GF/10 GA, t-8th in the East, t-18th in MLS, LDLLL
The Red Bulls’ front line vs. City’s defense:
Bradley Wright-Phillips vs. Jason Hernandez, Shay Facey, Chris Wingert, and Jeb Brovsky (and Josh Saunders).
Wright-Phillips had the first hour off last Saturday night in Foxboro, and the Red Bull attack picked up significantly once he entered the field. Still, BWP needs to get the ball in better positions, and sharpen his finishing skills if the Golden Boot winner is to return to last year’s form. NYC was torched by Obafemi Martins and Clint Dempsey last week in the Bronx. City is conceding a little more than a goal per match, and starting centerback Kwame Watson-Siriboe will miss Sunday’s match after picking up two yellows against the Sounders. Former Metro (actual MetroStar!) NYC native and Seton Hall product Jason Hernandez starts against New York, with Englishman Facey shifting to the middle next to St. John’s man and Jason Kreis favorite Wingert. Hipster-mustache icon Brovsky plays on the right. Saunders has played very well this season, boasting a 1.13 GAA and two shutouts, but this back line doesn’t get blown out often. Seattle was the first team to score three on City this season.
Slight Advantage: New York
City’s attackers vs. the Red Bull defense:
David Villa vs. Kemar Lawrence, Ronald Zubar, Matt Miazga, and Chris Duvall (and Luis Robles).
While David Villa leads his side with two goals and an assist, a lingering adductor strain has limited the World Cup Champion to only six appearances and five starts in City’s nine matches. Villa was very active in his 36 minutes last week, taking five shots and getting three on frame as City frantically tried to come back against Seattle. The Spaniard’s understudy is Patrick Mullins, who set up New England’s lone goal in last season’s MLS Cup loss to LA. The two-time Hermann award winner has a goal and an assist to his name this year. New York’s back line conceded two goals last week at New England, which was only the second time that’s happened this season. Still, if the Red Bulls want to win this first-ever derby, they’ll need to focus in the early going. New York has conceded first in four of the club’s last five matches, and the Red Bulls have won only once over that span. Duvall returns to his familiar right back spot after sitting out the Revs match. With Mizaga’s imminent departure to the US U20 team for the World Cup, Marsch will play him alongside a finally healthy Ronald Zubar. Though Lawrence was beaten on the Revs’ second goal last week, the Jamaican has locked down left back ahead of Roy Miller. Robles is only eight appearances away from matching Tim Howard at #2 on the all-time, all-competitions appearance list.
Mike Grella, Felipe, Dax McCarty, Sacha Kljestan, and Lloyd Sam vs. Khiry Shelton, Mix Diskerud, Pablo Alvarez, Ned Grabavoy, and Medhi Ballouchy.
Sadly, with news that Sal Zizzo will be out two to three months with injury, Marsch’s beloved “Grizzo” platoon will be shelved. Mike Grella, who deftly set up Kljestan’s goal at New England, moves back to the left. Felipe nearly tied last week’s match in the 88th minute with a curler that was snagged by the Revs’ Shuttleworth. Dax McCarty continues to make one poor decision per week that leads to an opponent’s goal scoring opportunity. Lloyd Sam returns to the starting lineup after subbing in at Foxboro last week. For City, Mix Diskerud hasn’t registered a point since scoring the first goal in club history in Orlando on opening day, a drought of 8 matches. Former Red Bull Ballouchy has scored two phenomenal goals for City, including one last week. Kreis man Grabavoy leads his club with two assists. Highly touted draft pick 6’ 3” Khiry Shelton is a prospect for the 2016 US Olympic team. He has a single assist to date this year. With starters and Adam Nemec & Javier Calle dealing with hamstring strains, 34 year-old Spaniard Pablo Alvarez may make his second straight start. Fan favorite Kwadwo Poku may come off the bench.
Advantage: New York
After a tough three-match week and his first loss as Red Bulls coach, Jesse Marsch needs to reinvigorate his side. It’s tough to coach finishing chances and not conceding early, but that’s what’s needed at the moment. City coach Jason Kreis has admitted to sleepless nights during his team’s eight-match winless streak. In his defense, the squad has been in every match but has been killed by injuries and the lack of familiarity between players that every expansion team suffers.
New York has never lost to an expansion side making its first visit to the MetroStars or Red Bulls (5-0-5). The Red Bulls haven’t lost a regular season home match since last October 13th (3-0-2 since). City has yet to win a match on the road, and has scored only twice in four matches away from Yankee Stadium. Despite Sunday’s historical tenor, the match (as of Friday morning) has yet to be announced as a sellout. The City supporters club is bringing 1,500 members, and surely there will be many casual NY Blue fans in the crowd. The day will be warm, with a high in the mid-eighties, but by the 7pm kickoff things will start to cool.
Advantage: New York
As much as the media and fans are making about the first ever Hudson or New York Derby, Sunday will feature two teams that simply need a win. New York’s midfield is clearly better than City’s, but a healthy David Villa can score from anywhere, at any time. If the Red Bulls’ defense can lock it down until the front line can score, New York’s Red and White will win handily. If City scores first, it’ll get interesting. I think the Red Bulls will prevail 3-1, with goals by BWP, Kljestan, and Felipe, and Villa from the Blues. The atmosphere will be electric, and both teams will finally get the media coverage on Monday that they truly deserve.