Birth of a Classical Rivalry: NYCFC vs Red Bulls

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It was a classic. Capulets and Montagues. Red verses Blue.  In the end it was as William Shakespeare wrote, “Hark, what light in yonder window breaks? It is the East and NYCFC is the sun.” (Or something like that.)  It could have been Shakespeare was thinking like the New York City Football Club fans watching in Yankee Stadium on Sunday when he wrote those iconic words.

The 2-0 win over the New York Red Bulls came at the perfect moment in the season in a perfect way. NYCFC played with passion and with the measured grace of classic verse poetry.  The win solidified NYCFC’s place as the sun rising to the top of the East and gave them some revenge against their crimson rivals. Now there is a rivalry.

Instant Classic Rivalry

NYCFC tried five times before to crack the Red Bulls’ hold on the Hudson River Derby to no avail.  The last time they met in May, NYCFC suffered the worst loss by any team in MLS history. It was no game that day but more like a massacre.  For the fans it was something out of a famous  tragedy where everyone lay dead on stage and in the end, “The rest is silence.”

On Saturday, however, it was a different show.  The older, more experience players on NYCFC’s roster exposed the Red Bulls and the rivalry finally lived up to the billing.  Andrea Pirlo, David Villa, and Frank Lampard demonstrated why they are super stars. Jack Harrison established himself as a young hero with a brilliant goal and an assist.  The team played with poetry and passion earning their first win over a New York based opponent.

It was like watching a great sword fight in a play. NYCFC orchestrated their passing with precision and grace, cutting down the Red Bulls defense. For every thrust of the Red Bulls there was a parry and even more dangerous counter attack by NYCFC.  The Red Bulls fought hard, but in the end, NYCFC simply looked the better team on Saturday.

Turning the Tables

The tables had been turned since the last meeting.  NYCFC had eight days of rest and the Red Bulls were coming off a grueling stretch of games.  The rest showed for NYCFC and the exhaustion showed for Red Bulls.

From the start NYCFC looked fresh and battled for every ball.  Their passes were crisp and lively. Patrick Vieira had started an interesting back four. It consisted of RJ Allen and three center backs,  Jefferson Mena, Frederic Brilliant and Jason Hernandez.  The change may have been out of necessity, as it was reported that Ronald Matarrita had picked up a knock in training, but it worked like a charm.

Lampard, Pirlo, and Villa combated the hard fouls and knocks the Red Bulls gave them with poetic vision and skill. Once, late in the second half, it was all Dax Mccarty could do to stay on his feet and defend David Villa’s hard rush to the goal.  A desperate and dangerous foul by Chris Duvall on Pirlo saw the Red Bulls reduced to 10 men. NYCFC then parked the bus  and closed out a well fought contest like a rhyming couplet at the end of a sonnet.

The Red Bulls had a few chances. A header in the second half by Felipe Martins should have equalized the game. The player sent it wide right of the goal and play continued.  Again, like well-rehearsed Shakespearean actors , NYCFC responded to each Red Bull attack with passion and measured precision.


The fans needed this win for so many reasons.  They needed to see that the team is progressing. They needed to see that a shutout is possible at Yankee Stadium. They needed to see that the Red Bulls were not seven goals better than them. They needed something called “a win” against the Red Bulls, but let’s face it, for them, “A win by any other name would smell as sweet.”

Main Photo- Michael Stewart, Getty Images