As the English electropop duo the Pet Shop Boys so aptly put it in their hit Go West ,”Go west…together we will fly so high”, so too did the Red Bulls fly high in a Desert Diamond Cup version of the Hudson River Derby. Despite the recent controversy surrounding Dax McCarty’s trade to Chicago coupled with a slew of blasé off-season signings and an otherwise unremarkable preseason, the New York Red Bulls seem poised for a positive return to form for the 2017 MLS season.
On Wednesday, the New York Red Bulls squared off against Eastern Conference rivals New York City Football Club as part of their preseason schedule which the Red Bulls ultimately ended up winning comfortably at 2-0. The relatively civil match was a far cry from derbies past without much of the passion infused altercations. New York’s key playmaker Sacha Kljestan produced a stellar performance against NYCFC hours after news broke the former Anderlecht man would be captaining the Red Bulls for the 2017 season.
Lining up in a new formation, the 4-2-2-2, the Red Bulls took their hallmark pressing game to NYCFC early on in the first half. City tried to mirror the success other teams have found against the Red Bulls high press system by launching long balls on the counterattack down an exposed right flank, exploiting the high line of New York right back Sal Zizzo. For all their inroads, NYCFC could not find a way to threaten Red Bulls’ keeper Luis Robles.
Kljestan would draw first blood for the Red Bulls, striking a well placed ball from forward Gonzalo Veron past NYCFC Keeper Eirik Johansen to make the game 1-0. Later in the first half, winger Daniel Royer would lace an excellent through ball through the City defense to find Kljestan who calmly found the back of the net to seal the game in favor of the Red Bulls, 2-0. The Red Bulls demonstrated their authority over a young NYCFC side devoid of stars.
The Red Bulls brought much of their A-team as they seek to prepare themselves for the important looming CONCACAF Champions League game against the Vancouver Whitecaps on Wednesday, February 22nd. The second-string laden NYCFC still has about three weeks left in the preseason and is evaluating their options in the form of trialists. The Red Bulls B-team are likely to finish out the remainder of their commitments to the Desert Diamond Cup.
Red Bulls: Robles, Zizzo, Long, Collin, Bilyeu, Davis, Felipe, Kljestan (C), Royer (83′ Etienne), Wright-Phillips (83′ Allen), Veron
NYCFC: Johansen (59′ Rawls), Allen (C) (45′ Matarrita), Sweat, White, Gomez, Awuah, Wingate (67′ Sands), Stertzer, Shelton (67′ Harrison), Brown, Okoli
23′ NYRB: Kljestan, assisted by Veron
43′ NYRB: Kljestan, assisted by Royer
47′ NYRB: Felipe, yellow
85′ NYCFC: Sweat, yellow