Am I the only one whose heart sinks when reminded that the monthly MetroCard I use for the NYC subway can't be used to transfer to the PATH train to Red Bull Arena?
It's an unfortunate inconvenience, something akin to having to exchange currency when visiting a foreign land.
Well, then, all aboard. Welcome to Hudson River Red'n'Blue.
New York City travels to the Marschlands on Mothers' Day firmly on the skids, their one and only MLS win coming nearly two full months ago. The host Red Bulls sit third in the Eastern Conference, and have every chance to drop the hammer on their new noisy neighbors in front of a promised sellout crowd at Red Bull Arena.
The Red Bulls sport the best home record in MLS, standing undefeated in four tries.
An away contingent of 1,500 New York City fans has been alleged, set to take over three stadium sections (219-221). The Third Rail Supporters' Club accounts for about 1,000 by itself, further establishing its status as one of the higher-profile supporter groups in all of MLS. A potentially massive, assuredly diverse crowd of commuters is scheduled to come together Sunday afternoon at Stout NYC on West 33rd Street before taking the party to the PATH trains.
On the field, Red Bull striker Bradley Wright-Phillips represents the latest threat to New York City and its ailing platoon of defenders. Last week in Seattle, Obafemi Martins bagged a brace while Clint Dempsey notched a goal and an assist in Seattle's 3-1 dispatching of the Bronx Blues.
Since joining the Red Bulls from England's Charlton Athletic in 2013, Wright-Phillips has scored 31 goals in 46 games.
The Borough Boys will have little-to-no margin for error at the back. A constantly-shuffling group surrendered three goals for the first time last week, and had to rely on untested signing R.J. Allen at right back during a deflating second half.
The RBNY midfied trio of Felipe Martins, U.S. international Sacha Kljestan, and skipper Dax McCarty, which has defined these early stages post-Thierry life in Harrison, is the exact type of thing that New York City FC doesn't have: a coherent, savvy, economical midfield nucleus that can turn mistakes into opportunities rather than doing the opposite.
So, other than getting lucky, what can NYCFC conceivably do?
I'd suggest the advice Batman received from Michael Caine:
We all know that New York City fans love their songs, even going so far as to write them down. But Sunday's game is a special event deserving a song of its very own.
Here to provide exactly that is Neverson Heatley III, a.k.a. lyrics.:
For all the reductive, dismissive media lambasting that New York City FC and its fans have weathered over the last few weeks, it's nice to have some new lyrics to talk about.
(To be clear, the "LyricGate" narrative, peddled by a worldwide fraternity mostly of clickbaiters, represented unserious reporting on this team. Even the Daily News threw fuel on that silly fire. Their inaccurate headline read, "NYCFC reportedly hands out chant sheets to fans during game." Really, "reportedly?" You're a major news outlet in the city-- is engaging in actual journalism out of the question here?)
Can't even call yourselves MetroStars
Prospects are sinking,
Just like your swamp
Sky blue boys, steppin' like a boss
You can't stomp with the big dogs
That's a lot of pride for a team with one win in nine. But every sport needs its "irrational confidence guys." Such is the power of Derby Week, perhaps? We can't know for sure because Derby Week has never happened before. But it feels good on the trot.
INJURED & SUSPENDED
New York Red Bulls:
DOUBTFUL: Roy Miller (knee), Ronald Zubar (hamstring)
OUT: Sal Zizzo (fractured tibia)
New York City:
PROBABLE: Jason Hernandez: (right calf strain), Adam Nemec (left ankle sprain)
QUESTIONABLE: Javier Calle (lefft adductor strain)
OUT: George John (knee micro-fracture), Tony Taylor (ACL and LCL)
SUSPENDED: Kwame-Watson Siriboe (two yellow cards last week)
PROJECTED STARTING LINEUPS
RUNNIN' THE NUMBERS
- 7: NYRB were undefeated over their first seven games before falling last weekend to New England. They were the last unbeaten team in MLS this year, and the seven-match run is the longest to open a season in Red Bulls/MetroStars history.
- 5W-3L-4D: Jason Kreis's overall managerial record against the Red Bulls.
- +8: NYRB's (+4) advantage in goal differential over New York City (-4), and their goals-per-game rate (1.5) is more than twice that of NYCFC (0.67).
- 1.00: Goalkeeper Luis Robles is surrendering exactly one goal per game for NYRB. Josh Saunders, after giving up three last week against Seattle, has a goals-against rate of 1.13.
- 42: Curiously, both teams have each managed exactly 42 shots on goal this season.
POTENT QUO TABLES
- Jason Kreis on the struggles of building the new team: "It just doesn’t sit well with me. I guess I didn’t realize it would be this difficult. Maybe I forgot how very hard it is to build a team in this league and have success on a consistent basis."
- Red Bull midfielder Mike Grella on staying focused after his team's first loss: "I’ve always known that we have a good squad and great management that trusts in the squad and I think that’s what makes us a team. We really fought hard for each other. We just didn’t get the result we wanted. A lot of things we need to fix, but we’ll be better for it."
- NYC fullback R.J. Allen on his debut vs. Seattle, which came one day after his signing was announced: "I've been training since the fall and started training with the first team on Tuesday. So, I was here Tuesday, Wednesday, through Saturday and then the game tonight. It’s crazy how quickly things can change."
- NYRB midfielder Sacha Kljestan on the challenge of scoring first: "We have that fighting spirit. The problem is that we’ve been giving up early goals and we keep having to fight our way back into games. You don’t want to be doing that all the time; you’d rather be playing with the lead."
- New York City's Mix Diskerud on playing for a team built from scratch: "A lot of people told me it’s not always easy with expansion teams. It takes time to settle and build a team. I feel like we’re playing a lot of good soccer, but of course at times there’s going to be ups and downs."
FINAL SCORE PREDICTION
We looked at the tea leaves, and they said Red Bulls 2, New York City 2.
Red Bull goals: Grella and an own goal.
New York City goals: Ballouchy (2).
We leave you with an inside look at one of the largest New York Red Bulls supporter groups: