The whole week leading up to the game New York City soccer fans were thinking blue or red thoughts. It was a big game between two of Major League Soccer’s best teams and more than just bragging rights were on the line. Two excellent cross river rivals clashed on Sunday evening in the Bronx and did not disappoint. It was NYCFC verses Red Bulls and the first sell out crowd of the season. It was a big game. If these two teams keep playing each other like this, the possibilities are endless. This is a rivalry that has the potential to be Frazier versus Ali, to be North Carolina versus Duke, to be a classic sports match up that people will talk about for ages.
Sunday night it was New York City Football Club that came out on top thanks to a hat trick by David Villa but the Red Bulls put up a fight with their star, Bradley Wright Phillips, scoring a brace for the visiting side. With the win NYC goes closes the win/loss gap between the two teams and the parity can only be a good thing for the New York Metro area and for soccer in America. Gone are the days of lopsided defeats against a first year franchise finding its footing. NYCFC have closed the gap winning three of the last four Hudson River Derbies and all of the match ups this season between the sides. New York and NJ are blue in 2017.
The atmosphere in Yankee Stadium was electric and the teams were back-to-back in the MLS standings. A win by Red Bulls would have seen them jump past NYC in the Supporter’s Shield race and in the Eastern Conference standings. NYCFC had been embarrassed on their trip to first place Toronto and team needed a win to keep them as one of the favorites to win some silverware this season . Everything was on the line and both teams came to play.
The game could not have started better for Patrick Vieira’s men as a long cross ricocheted off of Alexander Ring’s chest past the red Bull back line and to the waiting feet of Villa who’s change of pace wrong footed Luis Robles and gave him the first of his goals for the evening. Phillips would not be denied though and found the net himself with a great shot just before halftime.
When the game resumed it was Phillips again who launched a beautiful volley off a cross from Tyler Adams to put the Red Bulls ahead. Phillips celebrated. The New York fans had seen this before and you could feel the anxiety build in the stadium. Were the fans going to have to suffer another loss to the Red Bulls and listen to taunting chants from the visitors from NJ again? Were the nightmares of the of 7-0 defeat last year still lingering? Not if David Villa had anything to say about it. In the 72nd minute Villa received a pass from Fredric Brilliant on the right field line and then sprinted past and wrong footed four Red Bull defenders and rifled a shot near post past Robles to tie the match. The stadium erupted. Villa had taken the game upon his back and proved why he was the MVP last year and stands a good bet to receive the award again in 2017.
But the Spaniard was not done. just three minutes later Villa received a ball in the box and as he turned with it was kicked in the head by Salvatore Zizzo and brought down. The VAR whirred and the referee placed his finger to his earpiece to receive confirmation of the call. When he put the ball down on the penalty spot the crowd when wild and Villa stepped up to the position. Robles had already made two fine saves earlier in the match during open play and denied Villa his third goal, but Villa slotted the ball low into the right corner as Robles jumped the other way. After the game Villa thanked the ball boy behind the goal for pointing to him that Robles was going to dive left, but the 33,600 fans in the stadium all knew it was Villa who proved his quality once again.
Indeed, not enough good things can be said about Villa in this game. Vieira hugged him so hard after the final whistle that it seemed he might hurt his star. “It is all about the love,” Vieira said after the match, “when he (villa) is in the mood he is fantastic. He is our leader.” Jesse Marsch may have given us the understatement of the year by saying “he’s is a tough guy to deal with.”
One thing is certain, as these two teams keep having match ups like this, interest in soccer in NYC is only going to rise and these games are going to be the ones fans remember and say things like, ” I was there for Villa’s first hat trick” and “man, what a game that was. ” The next Hudson river Derby is just a few short weeks away on August 25 in NJ. If it is anything near as good as the game on this past Sunday it will be worth every penny. Red Bulls will be eager to not allow NYCFC to sweep them for the season and NYCFC will be aching to do just that. Get your ticket’s now, set your DVRs, plan your schedule. These match-ups are ones you want to watch.
New York Red Bulls