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PREVIEW: New York City FC vs. New York Red Bulls

The Big One returns to the Dirty Jerz for the first and only time this year. Can Vieira's boys paint the town blue?

Harrison is blue.
Harrison is blue.
Adam Hunger-USA TODAY Sports

Among the legions of celestes in the Five Boroughs, Harrison used to be a dirty word.

Now? Not so much.

Last year was one of Derby Doom for NYCFC. But this time around, Harrison is pretty darn blue, and the Borough Boys are the ones in first place. In fact, Patrick Vieira's side can lose on Sunday and still stand two points clear of Jesse Marsch's Jerseyites. A win, of course, would not only buy New York City at least one more week at the top of the Eastern Conference table, but also pull the team out from underwater on goal differential.

Wouldn't that be poetic? To get 'out of the red,' as they say, by beating the team that thrashed you by seven goals in the first place? And to do it in their house?

Indeed, the Blues will have every chance to do exactly that: on form, they've won five of their last six, while the Red Bulls' win last Wednesday over Orlando was their first victory since June 19th. Consider also that NYCFC has been a team of road warriors in 2016, boasting the best record in MLS away from home.

Suffice to say, then, that the tea leaves read quite favorably for New York City. But don't tell that to Patrick Vieira, whose trademark calm was on full display after last weekend's 3-1 victory at Montreal:

"I still believe there are some parts of the game where we really need to improve. We are more solid as a team, and I'm really pleased with where we are at the moment. But we are not perfect yet," the gaffer said. "You can see how tight the conference is. It's really good [to] win, but anything can happen and we can drop points losing against any team in the league."

Perhaps Vieira's measured reservation is a product of the constant danger posed by the Red Bulls in set piece situations: Dax McCarty & Co. absolutely brutalized the Blues on set pieces at the 7-0 Red Bull Wedding, and Connor Lade's game-winner last week against Orlando City came off a corner kick. Marsch can call upon two dangerous free kick takers in Sacha Kljestan and Felipe Martins, as well. To say that NYCFC will have to be vigilant at the back -- setting their feet, boxing out, winning 50-50 balls like mad -- is perhaps the grandest understatement ever around.

As it stands, though, on the strength of some serious prime time performances from Frank Lampard (five goals in six), Jack Harrison (savior of humanity), and David Villa (David Villa), the Blues are fairly flying this summer. If they can beat what is expected to be apocalypse-level heat for Sunday's 1:00pm ET kickoff -- players more familiar with Europe are rarely ready for the sweltering dog days of July in the U.S. of A. -- the Boys in Blue will find themselves one step closer to not just the playoffs, but perhaps even more.


New Jersey

OUT: Gideon Bah, Kemar Lawrence

New York City

OUT: Connor Brandt, Shannon Gomez, Ronald Matarrita, Stiven Mendoza, Khiry Shelton



New York City 3, Red Bulls 1. Harrison turns blue as Jumpin' Jack Flash scores against the Jerseyites once again. Frank Lampard scores with his butt off a set piece situation, perhaps by accident. Felipe Martins cuts one back for the Reds at the close of the first half, but Andoni Iraola puts it away in the 70th minute, firing home a deflected shot for his first-ever MLS goal. Jesse Marsch picks up as many balls as he can and tries to go home.