It took five games, but at long last, New York City beat the New York Red Bulls.
An eighth-minute goal by Jack Harrison staked the Blues to a lead they wouldn’t relinquish. Harrison found himself alone with the ball, and he wasted no time in lasering a shot past Red Bulls keeper Luis Robles.
Throughout the first half, the Blues were sharper on the ball than the Red Bulls, who were coming off a brutal stretch of six games in 18 days. Despite that, the Red Bulls had a fair number of chances, especially as the half wound down and the Blues faded a bit. With about three minutes left to go in the first half, David Villa came agonizingly close to making it 2-0 at the half, but Robles managed to just get a finger on it to deny the goal.
The Blues came out hard out of the gate, looking to cement their lead. Again, the Red Bulls weren’t sharp, and New York City took full advantage. They pressured a tired Red Bulls team again and again, forcing them into turnovers. In the 66th minute, that pressure paid off. Frank Lampard — who has performed creditably this season — pounced on a midfield turnover, courtesy of the Red Bulls high press. He fed the ball to Jack Harrison, who raced down the right side. Harrison saw Villa goal side, and beautifully bent the ball around the Red Bulls’ Chris Duvall. Villa then calmly slotted the ball past Robles to double the Blues’ lead.
In the 78th minute, Duvall, who struggled all game, finally got sent off for a clumsy tackle on Andrea Pirlo. With that red card, the Red Bulls chances of a fifth consecutive victory in the Hudson River Derby became academic. And as the whistle blew, the demons were exorcised as the stadium exploded.
With the win over the Red Bulls, and Philadelphia’s loss last night, New York City now stand alone atop the Eastern Conference with a record of 7-5-6 and 27 points.
Next up for the Blues: a four game road trip — Wednesday against the New England Revolution, then three straight Sunday games against Sporting KC, Montréal, and finally the rubber match of the Hudson River Derby at Red Bull Arena on July 24.