The Hudson Derby Lived Up To The Hype

The first-ever Hudson Derby is exactly what MLS was hoping for when establishing NYCFC
by Nick Chavez   |   Friday, May 15, 2015

At long last, there it was... and it was certainly a day brimming with anticipation. On May 10, 2015, I met with The Third Rail and members of New York City FC supporters groups like the Blue Ladies, The Hearts of Oak, and Los Templados who all joined together at Stout NYC on W33rd Street of Manhattan in preparation of the long-awaited first-installment of the "Hudson Derby", the fixture where New York City FC and the New York Red Bulls would finally collide.

 

In front of Stout, they started beating the drums of battle and singing New York City hymns while posing for photos with banners, scarves and setting off smoke grenades. Following the photo op, I joined them as they spiritedly marched to Penn Station to take the PATH train to Harrison, New Jersey, home of the New York Red Bulls.

 

On the way, New York City’s travelling support carried on proudly singing, chanting, waving flags, and clapping, with many New Yorkers puzzled about what was going on while others, perhaps familiar with the world’s most popular sport and supporter culture, smiled knowingly.

 

NYCFC Fans Marching Towards Penn Station in Manhattan on Hudson Derby day

 

Certain random bystanders on the streets of New York even joined in the cheering and encouragement, seemingly proud of the passion being demonstrated by the City’s only MLS team’s fans travelling to New Jersey to face their local rivals for the very first time in history.

Such was the NYCFC fans’ energy and enthusiasm that, upon entering the PATH train car carrying on with singing and jumping, the conductor refused to start moving and informed police to have the Rail and Co. get off and take a separate train altogether which arrived almost a half hour later.

 

It was decided by the travelling fans leaving New York City that it was in their best interest to save their energy for Harrison, as it was evident that the commuters, train employees and police were made nervous by their normal football supporter culture behavior and had rarely, if ever, encountered anything like it from sports fans in the area, and the New York City FC faithful didn’t want to further delay or jeopardize their trip.

 

Upon finally arriving in Harrison, the hometown of the New York Red Bulls, NYCFC tribes the Third Rail, Hearts of Oak, NYC 12/Brown Bag SC, Blue Ladies, and Los Templados all joined forces in a long parade towards the stadium, erupting into song, releasing all of that pent up energy. They even marched through Red Bull’s tailgating area, where they were gawked at by several Red Bull fans. Some fans were seemingly amused by the scene, with a handful of others, while keeping a safe distance, shouted insults and offered finger-gestures to the visiting NYCFC support, who carried on with their singing and flag-waving. All in good, “manufactured-rivalry” fun, as far as I’m concerned.

 

Blue City – column on New York City FC (NYCFC) & the NYC area soccer scene.

New York City FC Supporters United: Jerzy of Brown Bag SC, Rox of the Third Rail, myself, and Micheal Benham of the Hearts of Oak in the away support section of Red Bull Arena

 

For my part, walking through the tailgating lots observing the Red Bull fans was a bit of a heart-warming experience for me. It’s something I hadn’t done in several years, back when I would attend the occasional Red Bull match and support mymost local MLS team at the time before NYCFC even existed.


I saw families grilling with their kids, most decked out in Red Bull shirts. There were various children playing soccer in miniature Energy Drink emblazoned kits, stopping to watch the NYCFC fans parade through their hallowed, Harrison grounds singing, and must’ve been fascinated with the whole thing.


As a student of football culture, I immediately recognized that this sort of scene was something that only a miniscule percentage of American-raised children have historically been able to say they have been brought up on. It’s the sort of thing that will capture their imagination and leave an impression, wanting to reproduce these scenes during MLS matches in the future, supporting their own beloved Red Bulls when they come of age.


But back to Los Celestes, the NYCFC fans then gathered outside the north end of the Arena and set up shop singing, clapping, waving flags and setting off NYCFC-colored smoke grenades yet again. They've invaded this wonderful New Jersey soccer cathedral and were making the statement, “Yes, New York City FC supporters do exist. We are here and we will have to be reckoned with.”

Blue City – column on New York City FC (NYCFC) & the NYC area soccer scene.

(New York City FC faithful making their presence felt outside of Red Bull Arena)
 
During the match, the crowd was electric, full of the drama and theatrics from the fans that makes the sport such a spectacle globally. The Red Bulls supporters groups of the South Ward presented a series of banners and a tifo with jabs directed at NYCFC supporters, and both sides went ahead and roared back and forth with their catalogue of battle hymns in support of their respective clubs.

In essence, there were two beating hearts in Red Bull Arena competing to pump blood into their respective bodies. Oceans of passion sending waves of furious will, crashing against each other on the stage of this New York soccer derby in a way that was never before seen in an MLS match in the area.


"When you were running back and forth it felt like MLS Cup, to be honest," Red Bull captain Dax McCarty explained. "It was amazing."


The fans and pundits, in stadium or watching on television, seemed to be in unanimous agreement via social media that the atmosphere of the Hudson Derby was fantastic and lived up to the expectations I had for the meeting the week prior, declaring that I expected it to be one of the most intense rivalries in MLS, with its authentic energy frothing forth from this boiling bowl of domestic club soccer in MLS’s most indifferent and sought after of markets all-too-recently, the New York City metro area.


But, as is plain for all to see, things are different now. A sellout crowd of 25,217 made the trip to Red Bull Arena, on Mother’s Day with Rangers playoff hockey, and other events going on. There are now well-populated, dedicated, warring tribes in the New York City area who get all dressed up and prepare for battle in anticipation of -- who would’ve thought -- Major League Soccer matches.


The original vision and purpose for New York City FC’s birth is beginning to come to fruition, and no matter how much RBNY and NYCFC fans may dislike each other, I get the sense that they have a  bit of a newfound respect for each other. Red Bull fans came out for their veteran club, who are reaching the peak of their power on the pitch at the right time. And New York City FC fans did travel, didend up finding Red Bull Arena in New Jersey, and truly showed up to “power New York City”, although that machine is still certainly in its beta stages.

Yes, the struggling expansion side from the Bronx ended up losing this historic first Hudson Derby 2-1, but Major League Soccer and anyone who cares about its relevance in the New York Metro area came out the biggest winners. And I think New York City FC fans would agree ---  it’s better to lose a match than to have absolutely nothing to lose in the first place.

Nick CHAVEZ

Nationality:
USA
College:
SCSU
Club Domestic:
NYCFC
Club Foreign:
Real Madrid CF
This is the longest-running column focused on the only team representing the 5 Boroughs in world football: New York City FC. Long may its supporters continue to make history.
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