Before Saturday’s thrashing of NYCFC at Red Bull Arena, and before said night was spoiled, I spent quite a bit of time pondering soccer fandom in the US in general and more specifically the development of franchise rivalries in MLS. We were, of course, playing our alleged rival in what MLS dubbed the #NYDerby. There was so much talk in the days leading up to the game about how both NYC fans and NY Red Bulls fans were actually renaming it the “Hudson River Derby” and were resistant to the assumed insistence by the league in naming it a New York rivalry.
As seasoned football fans are quick to point out, a “derby” game doesn’t necessarily indicate a match that underscores the fiercest rivalry.If you look at Real Madrid, they may play a derby versus Atlético Madrid and fans of both clubs across the city will come out in large numbers, but their true rival in La Liga on any given day would be FC Barcelona.And in the English Premier League, if you ask any Manchester United fan who their “biggest rival” is, they will answer Liverpool and not Manchester City.
When soccer fans speak in general about the makings of a rivalry, the common thread is that it’s more than just a geographic commonality.Fans commented that true rivalries take time and history to develop and that ultimately it’s passion that fuels all.
However, in a league as young and eager to grow as MLS, mere hints of a rivalry by means of geography, team age, and a few contentious games can be accelerated into a full-blown “Rivalry”.These matches are easy to advertise and market and they sell more tickets.Both derby games and matches against a league rival grip fans as they give them a rare chance to loudly proclaim which clan they identify with.
“The beautiful game is for the fans and they are the ones responsible for defining what is meaningful and important and what or who isn’t”. – NYCFC fan Angel Meza
In the case of the New York City and the Red Bulls, some say that it’s not a true historical rivalry and not even a true derby game as the Red Bulls’ home is in Patterson, NJ.However, there is clearly true animosity and, for many NYCFC fans, it stems from the belief that a New York team needs to actually play in New York State.
It seems that the perceived highjacking of the “NY” in RBNY was the big rub.Not that the actual team or its fans had any say in that decision.No matter, as one City fan succinctly stated, “The one thing that makes a rivalry a rivalry is both sides agreeing it is one.”And that may be the only thing that most NYCFC and Red Bulls fans can agree on.
The irony of the #HudsonDerby this Saturday is that the actual New York club is the guest team. Jersey people always fail at geography.
P.S. NYC should buy Luis Robles. He deserves a trophy, not getting canned in playoffs or the now-worthless Shields.#NYisBlue 2018 champs!
Special thanks to the following fans for sharing their thoughts about soccer fandom:Andrés Emilio Soto, Stephanie Plaut, Osman Sosa, Rollie Joe Carney, Anthony Scarcello and Angel Meza. And thanks to Post Malone for those lyrics.
Well! Once again, the New York Red Bulls are facing their rival! It caught up with me way quicker than I thought it would. I honestly thought it happened in July.
Fellow original MLS squad DC United, currently in last place in the Eastern Conference, comes to Red Bull Arena to… um… wait…
(Kerissa clears her throat and whispers in my ear…)
Oh. Not our rival. My bad. Our “regional opponent.”
RBNY faces NYCFC, who are… currently in first place in the Eastern Conference (6-2-2). Going into the match, they had… twice the saves. A higher goal differential. More shots overall.
They’re a strong team. I’ve never denied it. I just don’t want them to do well against the Red Bulls. That’s true of every team. But I’d be lying if I said it didn’t mean a tiny bit more to face down a team that wants to be the Kings of Queens and all the other NY boroughs.
But the fans have a collective nickname for the Red Bulls: they’re “our large adult sons.” It’s a nod to their youth, their exuberance, and their physical presence. Sometimes they’re frustrated; sometimes they make mistakes. But they wear their hearts on their sleeves and they make their fans proud.
YOU CAN’T CHOOSE YOUR FAVORITE: Kaku opens the scoring in the 2nd minute– Bradley Wright-Phillips had the initial shot, but NYC goalkeeper Sean Johnson deflected it to Romero Gamarra to bring the fans to their feet. Then came the 4th minute– Valot chips his shot over the defender and Johnson, who was expecting it to stay on the ground.
And then, of course, Wright-Phillips makes it three (35′). And that was just the first half. Derrick Etienne Jr, subbed on for Danny Royer in the 65th minute, dodged Johnson and angled the ball in for the final goal in the 79th minute. They were all spectacular.
PLAY NICE: The first meeting of the NY Metropolitan area teams for the 2018 season was, of course, met with the usual online banter. NYC forward Jo Inge Berget pondered his first Derby leading up to the match. But the match itself was not much different.
Proximity allowed for a larger away support section than there was for, say, Portland. And of course, there was cheering and jeering that could be heard from my little corner of the press box. Sure, a ton of extra free t-shirts were being hurled, but there’s no such crime as assault with a deadly cotton. But no extra chippiness on the field. And that’s okay. Save it for later in the season.
IT’S PINK FOR THIS RED BULL: Defender Connor Lade shared with the crowd an important moment: the gender reveal for his baby, due in September. This mom couldn’t pass up a chance to see this event. He kicked a ball that was filled with colored chalk: a cloud of pink exploded to the cheers of the team and the fans. Now to supply Connor with a lifetime of Dad Jokes…
WHEN YOU’RE HERE, YOU’RE FAMILY: Prior to the reveal, the entire team walked right up to the South Ward to receive high fives and sign jerseys, having to hop over the signboards to get to them.
It’s amazing to watch the interaction that happens between an MLS team and their fans (I don’t purport it to be exclusive to RBNY). It’s what makes soccer special. As the weather continues to heat up, and the school year and spring youth soccer season come to a close, more families will come to visit “all their sons” at Red Bull Arena.
I feel like I was just here a month ago. And again a couple of weeks before that, and again only a few days before that. My Blue Counterpart summed up the feeling quite well.
So, this is basically my last chance to complain about the “rivalry” that is the New York Red Bulls (12-10-3, 39 points) and New York City FC (14-7-5, 47 points). This is a geographical rivalry. Like the New York Giants and New York Jets of gridiron football and the fabled Subway Series of the New York Yankees and the New York Mets. And those have been in place for what feels like forever. Because the NY Metropolitan area is easily large enough to accommodate fans for both teams. But then again, as my favorite Ginger Soccer Philosopher states in a recent ad campaign, “…soccer has supporters. And they’re a different breed entirely.”
Because of the structure of MLS, no one team can blow away the competition with stacked talent, premium accommodation and transport, or exorbitant payroll. So regardless of how heated it can get on the field, when the final whistle blows, everyone on the field shakes hands and exchanges jerseys, because ultimately they are all brothers in the same player’s union. The rivalry belongs to the fanssupporters, who argue the tri-state area can only be one color when, in fact, it has always easily been various shades of several colors.
As I sat in the press box and watched this last installment of the Hudson River Derby, I began to liken it to a completely different rivalry that was much more my speed as a child:
WON’T BE JUST ANY NIGHT: As soon as the traffic slowed to a crawl 2 miles before the exit to the arena, I knew it was going to be a different game. NYCFC was looking to sweep the series*, and RBNY was not interested in having that occur in their home. Also, the announcement had been made earlier in the week that, due to a scheduling conflict with the Yankees, NYCFC will have to host the Houston Dynamo next month at a stadium in East Hartford, Connecticut.
To be clear, I actually respect that NYCFC feels such a deep connection to the city of New York, and can appreciate the upset many Blue fans have voiced over the change. But since the bulk of the trolling from NYC fans has been geographically based, this was just extremely sweet and low-hanging fruit for Metro fans. The pettiness was turned up to 11, and I am here for that.
(*= in league play: I wrote about the Red Bulls eliminating NYC from the Open Cup competition… RBNY is heading to the final in a couple of weeks.)
A BOY LIKE THAT: Usually the conversation during these match-ups centers on Bradley Wright-Phillips and David Villa, who still made their mark on the game with 5 and 3 shots respectively. But it was Sean Davis who really seemed to be leading the charge for RBNY in the first half. His 3 shots and 82% passing accuracy were notable in the first act… I mean, half. Villa could only be credited with an assist with Maximiliano Moralez putting up the goal for NYC in the 56th minute. And when the moment came for RBNY to go to the spot following a foul on Sacha Kljestan, it was Gonzalo Veron who converted the equalizer.
BE COOL: Was there pushing? Tripping? Diving? You’d better believe it. And I ain’t even mad. Three yellow cards (Alexander Ring 19′, Kemar Lawrence 35′, and Rodney Wallace 43′) don’t lie. And it wasn’t like Video-Assisted Refereeing was getting involved apparently. But the majority of the action was just the run of play. And that’s great too. At the end of the day, a lopsided game is what makes for a sad “rivalry”. So, even though the 62% possession from the Red Bulls only resulted in a goal from a penalty kick and only 358 passes from NYCFC was enough for them to score, the balance is what made the draw, the first one in the soon-to-be-acceptable Hudson River Derby.
I LIKE TO BE IN AMERICA: The Red Bulls will face FC Dallas next week while the rest of the world takes an International break for World Cup Qualifiers and Friendlies. RBNY defenders Michael Amir Murillo and Fidel Escobar will once again join the Panamanian team, and congrats to David Villa on his return to the Spanish National Team. Meanwhile, RBNY Reggae Boy Kemar Lawrence is expected to decline the call-up for the Jamaican team’s Friendly against Canada. (My Fantasy team thanks Kemar for this, too.) Also, MLS cathedral Red Bull Arena is hosting the US Men’s National Team as they play Costa Rica. It’s an exciting week for the NY Metropolitan Area.
I need to begin by apologizing. I apologize for this post being so late. I apologize for allowing my support of the New York Red Bulls to get in the way of my duty to you. I should have been eager to write about this match, even though it was a loss. Truthfully, I would have been, too, if it hadn’t been for who we lost against.
Don’t worry. This isn’t going to be an angry screed against NYCFC. Yes, I fervently dislike the blue team, but that’s not what this website is about. There are plenty of other RBNY sites and podcasts who will be dissing them; so if you’re looking for that, look elsewhere.
Especially since Sunday was a classic “That’s so Metro” kind of match.
For those who don’t know, “That’s so Metro” is the phrase used when the Red Bulls lose a game through their own stupidness. It started in the early days of the club when they were the MetroStars when Nicola Caricola scored the only goal during the inagural home match. Too bad it was an own goal.
Thus, was a meme born.
“That’s So Metro”, or TSM for short, is not an excuse. Supporters don’t use it to defend bad plays or explain why we should have won. It’s used to describe how RBNY can turn a match or a season into a dumpster fire. It’s used to remember not to get our hopes up about anything until the final whistle of the final match. It’s our Chinatown.
I should have known something was wrong when I didn’t feel nauseated.
For the last few seasons, whenever there’s been an important match, I begin to feel nauseous a couple of hours beforehand. Several factors determine the strength of the feeling. How good is the other club? Have we played them before this season? If we did, did we win, lose, or draw? And, most importantly, how have we been playing? Depending on the answers, my tummy discomfort could fall anywhere from a little grumbly to a level where anything more than a hot dog could exit my body in the wrong direction. Usually, the worse I feel the better the club plays.
This past Sunday, I felt nothing.
Maybe I gave myself a false sense of safety. RBNY had been playing better in the last couple of matches. Even though their last three wins were against clubs having poor seasons, their form had improved so much that those matches were blow-outs — 5-1, 3-0, and 4-0 respectively. They were so improved from their June 24th match with NYC that many felt a draw would be a realistic result.
There were three signs this was going to be an oh-so-Metro match. The first was Daniel Royer’s cries of agony in the 11th minute. It looked like a true accident, too. Royer and NYC’s Alexander Ring were chasing the ball, Royer slid to kick the ball away from Ring, Ring’s run became more of a leap where his momentum didn’t keep him going forward, Ring fell backwards, landing on Royer’s knee. The play was so clean that neither player touched each other until Ring fell on Royer.
I don’t know if anyone at Yankee Stadium could hear his cries, but I could on television. They were chilling. They were the kind of cries that could mean the end of his season. Thank the soccer gods, it doesn’t look like that’s going to happen.
His leaving early affected the team, though. Before the injury they had a controlled possession with well-timed crosses and plenty of speed. After Royer’s injury, they lost momentum and began easily losing possession. They didn’t shake alive until David Villa scored a goal in the 28th minute.
And this was when the second sign appeared.
The goal was bound to happen. NYCFC had been feeding Villa ball after ball after ball. He came close a couple of times. So did another player or two. I just don’t think anybody expected it to come from such a mundane build up.
It began with NYCFC defender Ethan White throwing in to Ring who crossed it to either Alexander Callens or Ben Sweat. It’s hard to say since it rolled into the wide gap between them making them run for it like a stray ball. Sweat then lobs it far, hoping to connect with one of the forwards; instead being intercepted by RBNY defender Damien Perrinelle. Perrinelle then attempts to pass it up to Sacha Kljestan, but an NYCFC midfielder blocks it and — get this — uses his knee to send the ball towards David Villa who only has to run and catch it before Robles, which he does.
Reader, please believe me when I say that I have watched and re-watched this goal, and I discovered something disturbing: VILLA WAS UNMARKED THE WHOLE TIME! How? How was that allowed to happen? I know they had three forwards, but so did we. Bradley Wright-Phillips was marked by two defenders whenever the ball came close to him. Why were we not doing the same?
According to coach Jesse Marsch in the post-match press conference, Aaron Long was assigned to mark Villa throughout the match. Long had his back to Villa and was ten feet away before the first goal. For the second goal, he kept pace and was then beaten. In the build up to the penalty, he was marking Sean Okoli.
So remember a few seconds ago when I mentioned how Bradley Wright-Phillips always had two or three defenders marking him? Well, lucky for us he’s so dang good because he was able to make a couple of goals.
The first was really sweet. First, Felipe took possession from the blue team, passed it to Kljestan, who crossed to Sean Davis, who tapped it over to Wright-Phillips. BWP then dribbled the ball a few over to just the outside of the 18-yard box, while two blue defenders positioned themselves between him and the goal.
Talk about magic, though. Wright-Phillips planted his right foot and shot the ball with his left. Ethan White was literally in front of him and the ball, but he stretched too far to stop it. The ball went through his legs and towards the goal. The City goalkeeper, Sean Johnson, then dove to his left to stop the ball, but he also stretched too far. The ball passed through the triangular hole Johnson’s body made as it flew to the ground. It was the most masterful goal I’ve seen from Wright-Phillips.
Let’s jump forward now, past the second goals, to the third and final goal.
There’s still heated debate about what led to Villa’s penalty kick. Was it a jinx brought on by some RBNY supporters chanting “this is our house” as some talked about the next day? Probably not. Was it a malicious kick to the face from Sal Zizzo? No, Villa was hit by the ball not Zizzo’s foot.
This is what it was: another accident born of bad timing and one bad decision.
Villa and Zizzo were converging on the same point — the same point being the ball. They met it at the same time just outside the 18-yard box. They keep pace with each other for one stride, but the ball is on course to meet Villa. By then they’re in the box. Were Zizzo to knock or tackle Villa he would be called for a denial of a goal scoring opportunity, with Villa getting a penalty. So he went to kick the ball out.
Unfortunately, the ball was neck-high by then. Villa lowered his torso so the top of his head could meet it first. Zizzo raised his foot and tapped the ball just as it bumps off Villa’s head sending it into his face. If it wasn’t for the ball, Zizzo’s cleat would have hit Villa’s face.
A fair-minded individual would recognize that the whole moment was an accident, but even accidents have consequences. If Zizzo had left the ball alone, Perrinelle would have been able to mark Villa and even block the ball. Instead he made a decision which could have injured someone. No one should have qualms with Villa being awarded the penalty.
Everyone knew the match was over once the penalty was made. Marsch had waited too long to sub in Gonzalo Veron and Michael Murillo. The team was too deflated to even out the score. They had become so Metro.
But that’s not why they lost. The team played well and with promise. Kljestan’s form as a number ten is returning; he moved the ball with precision and assisted on both New York goals. Wright-Phillips is becoming a laser-focused striker, putting himself where he needs to be and timing his goals in astonishing ways. The only area that needs improvement is the shaky backline. Hopefully, more time together will lead to better decisions and improved marking.
Featured image courtesy: New York Red Bulls Instagram
New York City FC walked into yet another meeting with their bitter cross-state-lines rivals this weekend. Though it was only the fourth time they’d confronted the New York Red Bulls this year alone, it felt like the fortieth. Before the whistle blew, everyone formed a circle on the hallowed ground of Yankee Stadium and held their hands, alternating blue and red, blue and red, blue and red. They solemnly vowed to not meet again until next season because enough is enough, and then the whistle blew.
The boys in blue enjoyed a rousing game of aggressive football. Though Bradley Wright-Phillips did his best to one-up David Villa goal for goal, he was no match. Their nemeses exited Yankee Stadium with defeat bitter on their tongues as NYCFC celebrated their comeback win.
“It’s possible you are a robot whose sole purpose in life is to play football,” a reporter told Villa after the game before his thought petered out into a nervous laugh. “But that’s crazy, right?”
With no life behind his eyes and the chants of the crowd still ringing in his ears, Villa smiled. “Yes. So crazy.”
He resisted the urge to say he was human, because that’s exactly what a robot would say.
All looked to be peaceful at last in the land of New York… Until Don Garber rode in on his highest of horses and slammed his ruby-and-sapphire-encrusted staff into the ground.
“No!” he bellowed to the heavens, shaking the cherubs (who, strangely enough, all looked like Yangel Herrera before he grew his baby beard) from their slumber. “No, I demand more rivalry weeks! I demand revenue! I demand MLS be taken seriously, but mostly I demand revenue! You shall meet again! YOU SHALL ALL MEET AGAIN.”
He disappeared in a cloud of smoke. The horse remained.
“I don’t particularly want to be doing this again,” Jack Harrison said in his piping voice, like a lovely caged songbird who will inevitably be released soon for a lot of money.
Patrick Vieira lifted his gaze to the skies, searching for any sign of their overlord only to find none. “We must,” he sighed Frenchly. “The Don commands it.”
“It won’t be so bad.” David Villa threw everyone a roguish grin. “You have me, so.”
Yes, he was indeed the hero of the night. Not one goal, not two goals, but three goals found their way from his anointed foot to the back of the net. His first hattrick! Surely there would be much jubilation tonight. Heavy is the head that wears the crown, but you’d never know it by looking at their captain, indefatigable and effervescent as ever.
“Somebody should probably take care of that horse,” Alex Ring pointed out, because he’s perfect and the only one with his priorities straight.
“I want to ride it.”
“Maxi, that’s dangerous.”
“Let me ride the horse.”
“No, Maxi. He’ll stomp you. You’re a quarter of his height!”
With no warning, the horse let out a mighty whinny and shook its glorious star-spangled mane. From its tresses fell– a check for extra allocation money to sign a new right-back?
No. No such luck. It was merely a note straight from The MLS Mechanism Room. With the collected calm of a man no longer burdened by his own flowing locks, Tommy McNamara picked it up from the ground and read it aloud to the group:
THE NEXT TIME YOU MEET WILL BE IN LESS THAN THREE WEEKS. THE HUDSON RIVER DERBIES WILL CONTINUE UNTIL MORALE IMPROVES. NO GODS, NO MASTERS. IN NEW YORSEY WE DIE LIKE MEN.
Andrea Pirlo awoke from his nap just in time to hear the news. “Very ominous,” he deadpanned. Nobody knew if he was being sarcastic or not. Nobody dared to ask.
For as much as they may have wanted to rally against the forces of the universe, they knew deep into their hearts that it would be futile. No man can supersede The Don. Many among their own ranks had tried, and where were they now? Gothenburg. Salt Lake City. Orlando. Retired, which everyone knows is a code word for something much more sinister.
No, to stay alive in New York City, one must play the hand they’re dealt. And if that means every other match being a Hudson River Derby to appease the whims of a fickle federation, then so be it. They had to accept their fate, prepare for their trip to the west coast and begin to brainstorm a way to defend their derby title, short-lived as it may be.
Still, nothing could take the night’s victory from them. As they headed out into the dusky evening, nineteen men and one mysterious horse, they did so with one immutable truth burning at the forefront of their minds: