Fate can be a tricky thing. Depending on the circumstances, it can be a good thing or a bad thing. We either thank the gods for their plans or curse them for their treachery. It was fate, however, that made this two-derby week possible for NYCFC and the New York Red Bulls. The first meeting between these two teams was originally set for Saturday, August 21st. Mother Nature had other plans, though, as she brought less-than-ideal conditions to create an unplayable field and force a postponement.
Thus, this week became Hudson River Derby Week, as NYCFC and the New York Red Bulls played each other twice within four days. With the MLS season three-quarters of the way complete, both of these games were essential–both for bragging rights and playoff contention.
Stakes For Both NYRB and NYCFC
For NYCFC, they started off the week in third place, but just four points over the playoff line. Two wins this week could’ve separated them from the rest of the pack and given them a nice cushion. Instead, they lost and drew two winnable games and remain in the same place they were. Now, however, they are only two points above the playoff line.
For the Red Bulls, things are much more different. They started off the week in 11th place, just three points above the lowly Chicago Fire. With only nine points between them and the playoffs, they needed to win this week. After just barely achieving a draw on Wednesday, they earned a hard-fought victory on Saturday. Even though they remain in 11th place, they are now only seven points away from a playoff spot. It will still be a difficult mountain for them to climb and failure to do so will snap their 11-year playoff streak.
Wednesday, 09-22-21: Late Equilizer Gifts NYRB a Point
The first game this week was an interesting one, with questionable decisions and a bizarre ending. Before any of that happened, however, Valentin Castellanos continued to do what he does best: score goals. In the 31st minute, he scored his 13th goal of the season off of a nice assist from Maxi Moralez. NYCFC had been pressuring the Red Bulls up until that point, with Anton Tinnerholm forcing Carlos Miguel to make a good, close-range save shortly before the opening goal. However, when Moralez received the ball on a quick counterattack, he found Castellanos running towards goal on the left. His shot went across the face of goal and past Miguel to go into the net and make it 1-0.
Red Bulls head coach Gerhard Struber had a busy second half, going to his bench early by bringing on Andrew Gutman and Dru Yearwood. However, the narrative of the game changed in the 73rd minute. NYCFC midfielder Keaton Parks was given a straight red card for a foul on Yearwood. It was an interesting call, as seen by Head coach Ronny Deila’s postgame comment: “For me, it’s very, very soft.”
Despite the red card, NYCFC was able to keep things the same–that is, until the end. In the seventh minute of the eight minutes of stoppage time, a NYRB shot came off of defender Maxime Chanot. Because of multiple appeals for handball, VAR was consulted and Chanot was ultimately given his second yellow card of the game. He was forced to leave and the Red Bulls were given a penalty. It was certainly a questionable call as 1) the ball hit closer to Chanot’s arm than hand and 2) you can tell Chanot was trying to pull his hand/arm closer to his body. In any case, Patryk Klimala scored the penalty and salvaged a draw for his team. It was his seventh goal of the season so far.
Saturday, 09-25-21: NYCFC Lose a Tough Game at Home
It was a much different game this time around, as the Red Bulls seemed eager to respond to some unhappy fans. They won 1-0, despite being out-possessed 65% to 35% and despite being in NYCFC’s safe haven of Yankee Stadium.
It didn’t take long for the Cityzens to start applying pressure. By the sixth minute, they were already knocking at the door–an Alexander Callens header off a corner was cleared off the line by a defender, and, shortly after, Moralez forced Carlos Miguel to make a tough save with a header of his own. It was a great night for both goalkeepers, as Miguel finished with four saves and Sean Johnson, despite conceding a goal, finished with seven. The one shot he couldn’t save came from Omir Fernandez in the 43rd minute. Fernandez started on one side of goal, passed it to the middle, and then Kyle Duncan received it on the other side. He beat his defender and found Fernandez running into space right in front of goal. It was a nifty finish for his second goal of the season.
The Blues had plenty of chances to equalize. Shortly after Fernandez’s goal, Valentin Castellanos hit a bicycle kick from far out that just barely missed the top of the net. In the second half, he rushed in towards net off a Moralez corner but Miguel came up with the point-blank save. Additionally, in the 78th minute, Jesus Medina flubbed one of the best chances of the night. Castellanos went deep in the corner and sent a long cross to an unmarked Medina. Instead of sending the ball away from Miguel, he headed it right towards him for the save. Even with three minutes of stoppage time, NYCFC could not answer.
It will be another two-match week for NYCFC, who have another Wednesday game before playing next Sunday. On Wednesday, they play the Chicago Fire at Soldier Field before coming back home to play Nashville SC. The Fire are far out of the playoff picture, so they should provide good preparation for Sunday’s game–Nashville are the only team ahead of NYCFC besides the New England Revolution.
The same goes for the NYRB this week, except their second game will be on Saturday. On Wednesday they play the Philadelphia Union at home before going away to face FC Cinncinati. The Philly game will be tough for them but if they can manage a draw against them, they could easily pick up a win on Saturday and have another four-point week. Obviously, two wins would be preferred, but Philly are a good team.
One more Hudson River Derby remains on the season: Sunday, October 17th at Red Bull Arena. If the stakes were high with these two derbies then they will only be higher with the next one. We shall see where fate leads these two NY teams when they meet up again in just a couple of weeks.