As has always been the case with the Hudson River Derby, there’s a lot on the line for New York City FC. Outside of bragging rights, a win for the Boys in Blue will leapfrog them over the New York Red Bulls into second place on the Eastern Conference table. Anything short of a victory will keep them staring up at their rivals, unable to directly do anything about it until the last regular season derby in early August.
As many frustrated NYCFC fans can tell you, the Hudson River Derby has been a one-sided affair in it’s young history. The Red Bulls have a dominant 8-1-3 (W-T-L) record over NYCFC and most of their victories have been in dominant fashion. The Red Bulls have consistently been the better team in each matchup, but a lot of that success is thanks to their all-star striker, Bradley Wright-Phillips.
It’s no secret that BWP has had City’s number since the first edition of the cross-river rivalry. In his first game against the Boys in Blue, Wright-Phillips notched a brace in what would be a 2-1 win for the Red Bulls. Since that game, the English striker hasn’t stopped tormenting NYCFC.
In the 11 games of the Hudson River Derby (including U.S. Open Cup matchups) he’s played in, Wright-Phillips has notched an unreal 11 goals and 1 assist against New York City. Those numbers are impressive alone, but they’re downright dominant when you realize that the Red Bulls have scored 21 goals in those 11 games. That’s a mind-boggling 57 percent of the club’s offensive output.
To any NYCFC fan who’s witnessed the damage Wright-Phillips has done first hand, those numbers are downright terrifying. To some, especially this writer, it seems like no matter how the club strategizes or what they do in-game, they’re unable to stop the Red Bulls’ talisman. There is some hope, however. Of the 11 games mentioned above, the Cityzens kept Wright-Phillips off the scoresheet in four of them and own a respectable 2-1-1 record in those games.
Nullifying BWP is possible with the right approach, but it’ll take a lot of coordination along the defense to make it happen. Putting consistent pressure on Wright-Phillips obviously needs to be done. Doing so will force the England international — who occasionally struggles to hold onto the ball — to rush his passes, which could create turnovers.
However, perfect execution of the offsides trap is a major key to stopping the thorn in NYCFC’s side. Based on his style of play, Wright-Phillips is constantly prone to being caught offsides. So much, in fact, that the English striker is top 10 in offsides calls per game (0.9) and total offsides calls this season (15) according to WhoScored.
Doing the above is a lot harder than simply stated, but it’s more than obvious that NYCFC’s main objective should be keeping BWP from finding the back of the net. Yet, while their club’s talisman is probably the most dangerous player on the field, he’s only one part of the Red Bulls equation City needs to solve. The Red Bulls are a deep squad capable of winning without Wright-Phillips (as we learned in the club’s U.S. Open Cup loss this season). However, if Wright-Phillips finds a way to score on Sunday, history tells us that an NYCFC victory will be an unlikely outcome.