As I stepped foot off the D train, through the corridor, and onto 161st St. last night, you could feel this quiet, yet palpable tension in the air. I’ve made this trip from Elizabeth, New Jersey to the Concourse section of the Bronx more times than I could count, but this was different. It was Derby Day and it was everywhere you looked!
Even Alexander Ring’s daughter was all-in!
The Ringleader taught his daughter well... pic.twitter.com/qP2t5nJt9V— New York City FC (@NYCFC) August 25, 2019
But even as a derby game, the second edition of 2019’s Hudson River Derby was in stark contrast of competitions past between these two clubs. After getting punched in the mouth early, New York City FC were able to gather themselves and play some of the prettiest technical football we’ve ever seen them play, especially against the New York Red Bulls. From the 15th minute on, NYCFC pressured the often overwhelming Red Bulls and showed for certain which of two clubs is in the driver’s seat in the Eastern Conference this season.
The result? A 2-1 win for City that wasn’t as close as the scoreline would suggest.
The game started out like many past meeting between the two cross-state rivals; the Red Bulls applied the pressure and NYCFC were left to absorb it and hope for the best. And it was the red team that would strike first.
In just the 10th minute, an under-pressure Ring would receive the ball near his own box and attempt to lob it over the opposition. The initial did find Taty Castellanos in the midfield, but the Argentinian’s touch failed him and granted the Red Bulls possession of the ball in City’s own half. The ball found Alex Muyl who initiated a pretty one-two combination with Kaku before being put 1-v-1 against goalkeeper Sean Johnson. The NYCFC keeper got a touch to Muyl’s shot, but the ball still found the back of the net to give the bad guys an early 1-0 advantage.
Immediately after the goal, the Bulls continued to control the match for the next five minutes until NYCFC began to wake up and re-establish control over the match. The Boys in Blue would then nearly tie the game on a great cross from Ronald Matarrita which found Castellanos in the box. Taty’s headed chance would beat NYRB keeper Luis Robles, but would clang off the crossbar.
In the 36th minute, NYCFC flirted with goal again. On a long ball from Matarrita, Castellanos would head the ball down into the path of Héber who took an absolute wonder strike on the full volley from distance before once again being denied by the woodwork.
The Blues wouldn’t be held down for much longer, however, and would finally get their equalizer late in the first half. After displaying some great composure to maintain possession of the ball, Alexandru Mitrita would lace a gorgeous incisive ball through three Red Bull defenders to find Maxi Moralez in the box. Before the ball could reach him, though, the diminutive No. 10 was collided with by Bulls defender Michael Murillo. Moralez attempted to play through the contact, but was granted a penalty by Kevin Stott when his follow-up shot was denied by Robles.
As usual, Moralez stepped up to take the penalty. And in an effort to erase the memories of his previous miss earlier this week against FC Cincinnati, Maxi drilled the spot kick up the middle and past Robles to level the game at 1-1 going into halftime.
Going into the second half, NYCFC would not relinquish their stranglehold on the game. Just moments into second set of 45 minutes, Castellanos would almost give NYCFC the lead. In just the 49th minute, the emerging forward powered past Aaron Long on the wing before carrying the ball into box. Taty would then deliver a shot from an acute angle, which would sneak through Robles’ legs before once again striking the post and trickling away. Héber attempted to convert a follow-up chance but would be denied by a scrambling Red Bulls defense.
But City would not have to wait for their lead for much longer.
Just moments later, Anton Tinnerholm would carry the ball to the opposing byline and center the ball for Héber. The Brazilian forward would deflect the ball towards the net with a sublime backheel through Robles’ five hole and into the back of the net, giving NYCFC a much deserved 2-1 lead and sending the home supporters into a frenzy.
NYCFC threatened to extend the lead in the 55th when Tinnerholm once again danced through the Bulls’ defense. This time, the Swede would fire a shot on frame. Robles did well enough to parry the shot away, but the ball would bounce into the path of Keaton Parks who was faced with an open goal. Unfortunately, the American midfielder on loan from Benfica couldn’t make the best of his golden opportunity and would head the ball wide of the mark.
Shortly after, the Jersey Boys would reclaim some control over proceedings and started to build some momentum. This newly-found form allowed for the Red Bulls to nearly level the game on a shot from distance in the 66th minute which would be saved by Johnson.
From there, the game would kind of settle into a stalemate where NYCFC seemed to be giving NYRB a bit more breathing room, but still holding firm on defense thanks.
The drama picked up in the dying minutes of halftime. After the fourth official indicated there would be a whopping six minuted of stoppage time, Matarrita took exception to a late shoulder bump from Kaku to Alexander Callens. Mata initially went to confront the Paraguayan, but was instead greeted by RB’s Murillo who shoved Mata away. The two then touched heads before Mata aggressively threw his head forward towards the New Jersey defender. Initially, the play was overlooked by referee Kevin Stott, but would be revisited in video review. After consulting with the VAR, Stott reached into his pocket and showed Mata a red card, forcing City to defend the last few minutes of the game shorthanded.
Red Bulls would get a golden opportunity shortly after Mata’s sending off when Kaku headed the ball into the area into the path of an unmarked Tom Barlow who whiffed on his shot. Apart from that, however, NYCFC stood firm and saw out a triumphant 2-1 victory.
In retrospect, the game could’ve (and perhaps should’ve) been a blowout in favor of New York City. Nonetheless, it was a convincing, well-earned victory for the Bronx Blues as they win their third straight game and continue their push towards the top of the East.