Skip to content

New York City FC and a chaotic, perfect week

New York City navigated through a week heavy on drama, travel, and rivalry matches, emerging with three wins and a sense that the young squad might have accelerated its learning curve.

Mounsef got to celebrate a goal again, a Hudson River Derby winner no less. Photo: NYCFC.

New York City FC packed a lot into seven days.

They won consecutive tough away matches against conference rivals, dealt with ugly post-match scenes in Toronto and their subsequent fallout, then returned home and capped off a whirlwind seven-day stretch with a thrilling 2-1 win in the year's first Hudson River Derby. That's not even mentioning New York City's front-row seat to the birth of an international superstar, rodent pitch invader Raquinho.

It was a week full of drama and potential distractions, yet New York City never seemed to let any of it impact performance. They withstood shot barrages on the road in Toronto and Philadelphia, escaping from both encounters with slim, hard-fought wins, the types of results that seemed to frequently elude the 2023 version of NYCFC, a side that struggled to hold onto one-goal leads.

This year's team ended a grueling three-match gauntlet with a flourish, beating a high-flying Red Bulls side in a back-and-forth encounter that breathed some life back into the Hudson River Derby, a fixture that has turned at times tedious and underwhelming in recent seasons.

New York City FC vs Red Bulls: Rate the players
The first-ever Hudson River Derby held in Queens is now done and dusted — here’s your chance to rate the New York City players from the famous 2-1 rivalry win.

The first-ever Hudson River Derby in Queens never looked likely to be a ho-hum affair, given the way each side entered the match. One spot on the Eastern Conference table and three points separated New York City and the Red Bulls, with the visitors from Harrison, New Jersey riding in on the high of their own two-match winning streak.

A lot of talk early in this season has focused on the rejuvenation and remaking of the Red Bulls under new manager Sandro Schwarz, and with new high-priced Designated Player signing Emil Forsberg in the fold.

The Red Bulls have also owned this fixture historically, winning 15 of the previous 27 meetings between the teams, so hosting them to cap off a week of short rest, tired legs, and emotional rollercoasters presented New York City with an added challenge.

This ended up just being another challenge NYCFC faced and dealt with, much like the challenge of starting the 2024 season with three straight losses, or the challenge of featuring a striker who often did so much right, yet also often failed, at times spectacularly, to perform his core function: Scoring goals.

Yes, Mounsef Bakrar was finally able to do the job in the Derby, slotting home a cross from Tayvon Gray to earn his first goal in 15 appearances. It's an understatement to say Bakrar needed the goal, though it's fitting he was the player to deliver the decisive goal.

Bakrar has struggled in front of goal all season, but consistently held the support of his head coach, teammates, and even New York City fans, with some trying to organize a ninth-minute clap of solidarity for the striker when he was at his lowest.

He's in many ways a good proxy for the entire New York City squad, a team that has struggled and at times has looked lost in 2024, at least in the season's earliest days. Nick Cushing has spoken repeatedly of his team going through a "process," needing to learn how to win and be a winning team.

The three games in Toronto and Philadelphia, and then in Queens against the Red Bulls, represented a massive early-season stress test for what is officially the youngest team in MLS and one of the youngest teams in all of North America.

The "process" looks to be bearing fruit, though Cushing was quick to warn people against thinking his squad is "all the way there" following the dramatic win over the Red Bulls.

So the "process" will continue for individuals like Bakrar, and for the entire NYCFC team, as there is still more than half of the MLS regular season to come.

Yet this year's New York City FC seems to have accelerated its learning curve. The young squad was put through a unique blend of challenges in a uniquely difficult three-match week, yet collected all nine points available to them, a perfect result.

Neither the team nor its performances have been blemish-free, but the way this week played out, it's now a lot easier to see New York City as a real contender to be dealt with over the remainder of the MLS season.