Each week we do a Q&A with our friends around the SB Nation Soccer world to get some insight on their team from those who know them best. Know your enemy!
The times they are a-changin’. A year ago it seemed NYC FC and RBNY were in different stratospheres when the two took the pitch for their rivalry match. Fast forward to today, and New York has won the first two regular season match-ups in the Hudson Rivery Derby and has a chance to sweep the season series with a victory in Harrison on Friday.
Easier said than done. This RBNY team is playing excellent soccer these day, firmly entrenched in Playoff position. New York City will have to play a near flawless game to get all three points against a team that needs to get results at home and wants revenge.
If we’re going to defeat the walkers to the north, we’re going to need to come together. Jonathan Tzvi Machlin from Once a Metro has agreed to a temporary armistice ahead of the match Friday to field questions. Tzvi talks squad shuffling, RBNY’s mantra for making the Playoffs, and the team’s recent struggles against NYC FC.
Q. Red Bulls took a tough loss to Portland on the road in a match only three days following their comeback US Open Cup Semi-final against FC Cincinnati. In all, Red Bulls played 4 matches in 12 days, a difficult slate of fixtures. How did Marsch and co. rotate the team during the run and how are you feeling (about the team and its performances) coming out of that tough stretch?
A. The rotated lineup used during the game against Portland served two purposes: 1) Gave much-needed rest to the players who went the full 120 minutes on Tuesday (BWP, AmeriKante, Muyl, Kljestan, Murillo), and 2) Gave first-team minutes to three brand-new players: Dilly Duka, Vincent Bezecourt and Fidel Escobar. While the plan obviously didn't work out as intended from a match-results perspective, the team gained a strong understanding of what those three could do with the first-team (albeit a diminished one).
It's hard to feel too confident heading into the final stretch given that the opposition includes Toronto, Dallas, Chicago, and Atlanta - all of whom could easily take the full three points. But the MLS Conference table has the unique ability to separate the wheat from the chaff, so they may not have to be as good as they were this time last year to stay above the red line.
And if Red Bulls can stay healthy and get Aurelien Collin & Daniel Royer back soon, this team can make a run at a high seed in the East.
Q. There's only 10 games remaining in MLS season (for Red Bulls) and the Playoff push is definitely on in a stacked Eastern Conference. RBNY has a relative games-played advantage over Columbus and Chicago, but are level on games with Montreal and two up on Atlanta. It's wild open as it stands. Long intro to ask this fill-in the blank question: For Red Bulls to make the postseason, they have to ___________.
A. Get points on the road. I think the magic number of points to ensure a spot in the post-season this year is 53. They have 38 right now, and with five more home games I think they can get at least 9 of them there. But the remaining six or so will require they get points on the road from teams like FC Dallas, Chicago, and even Toronto. They've proven that they can at least get road wins against more vulnerable teams like Minnesota and Philadelphia, but they have yet to get any points on the road against a team that's a serious title contender. Besides, what's even the point of making the post-season if you can't get a win or tie on the road against a playoff team once you're there? You won't go far in the MLS Cup playoffs without good road form.
Q. Feel free to go any direction with this (complimentary statements encouraged): Why do you think NYC FC has found more success against RBNY this year and how does the team turn it around at home in their (maybe) last meeting of the season?
A. The simplest answer to me is that NYC FC made smarter winter transfers. Between those draft picks and signing Ring & Moralez, NYC FC had one of the better free agency periods in the league - and their position on the table attests to that. It sure as hell hasn't helped the Red Bulls in this derby that they traded Dax McCarty for cash and didn't do anything with the money before the summer transfer window.
As a side note, people can mock the MLS salary cap all they want, but it gives our league more parity than almost any soccer league in the world - because teams can't spend themselves back into greatness whenever they make a bad acquisition like Man City, Man United, PSG and Chelsea. Spending your money wisely is the only way to get ahead, and I think it's pretty obvious that NYC FC, Toronto and Chicago spent their money better than any other team in the league.
Though, I'm not gonna lie, us losing Daniel Royer in the first 15 minutes of the game at Yankee Stadium was a huge difference maker. I think most people would agree that game would have played out very differently if he had played a full game.
For the Red Bulls to win I would suspect they need to utilize their fastest players on defense to avoid big mistakes on the breakaway. That doomed them in the past and might do so again.
GK Luis Robles
DF Aaron Long - Fidel Escobar - Michael Amir Murillo
WB Kemar Lawrence - Tyler Adams
AM Sean Davis - Sacha Kljestan - Alex Muyl
FW Bradley Wright-Phillips
Injuries: OUT - M Daniel Royer, DOUBTFUL - D Aurelien Collin, QUESTIONABLE - F Muhamed Keita, D Damien Perrinelle, PROBABLE - D/M Tyler Adams
Q. Game Prediction?
A. Jesse Marsch and Patrick Vieira rip off their shirts in the middle of the game and start wrestling in the middle of the pitch. Vieira hits Marsch with a German suplex only for Marsch to counter with an F-5 before Kurt Angle rushes to the field and separates the two.
Undoubtedly our most audacious match prediction— thanks Tzvi! Join us in the comments section to discuss the Sunday's match and give your own prediction, and be sure to check out the "reverse fixture" on onceametro.com, where we answer three NYC FC questions.