Empire Derby match kickstarts NYCFC stay in Arizona

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Photo Credit: Alexander Dolan

In just two years one of the greatest rivalries in MLS has sprung up in New York City. It pits the New York City Football Club against the New York Red Bulls. So far the rivalry has fallen largely in favor of the long-established Red Bulls, but this year NYCFC have an extra chance to catch up.

On Wednesday at 4 PM at Kino North Stadium the two clubs face off against each other in a pre-season match up. NYCFC will look to build on the come back draw at Emelec in Ecuador last week and establish a starting line up full of club veterans and newly signed players.

It will be the first time Alexander Ring is available for NYCFC. The 25 year old Finland international midfielder joined up with the club in Arizona and has been practicing with the club. Will he be the answer to the holding defensive midfielder spot currently occupied by 16 year old James Sands and converted center back Maxime Chanot. If ring can provide the support Andrea Pirlo needs to operate in the midfield then NYCFC might have a fun day under the sun.

NYCFC seem to be loaded with options and questions heading into the match. Sean Okoli and John Stertzer each made a case for themselves to be on the pitch with beautiful goals against Emelec. Okoli fired a rocket into the back of the net to bring NYCFC back within one during the second half and Stertzer calmly collected and delivered in front of goal in the last minute to seal the draw.

This is not the NYC of last year filled with aging stars and slower feet. This is a young and fast team anchored by David Villa and Pirlo. Jack Harrison and Khiry Shelton look to break out as pacey wingers this year and Tommy McNamara and Miguel Camargo look to make their cases for the attaching center midfield creator behind Villa. Youngsters Jalen Brown and Chris Wingate also impressed in Ecuador and look to solidify their place on the roster.

All in all, this game is a win-win for NYCFC. If they lose to Red Bulls again then it is just a preseason match with nothing on the line. If they win they gain confidence for the season ahead when playing their cross town rivals. Either way, they will get valuable experience defending against the high pressing style Red Bulls play. That style gave the slower team of last year real problems. Wednesday we will get a glimpse to see if NYCFC’s new youth and speed can solve some of those problems. For fans of both clubs, it is all about the bragging rights.

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