The Hudson Derby Is Finally BlueBoth Patrick Vieira and New York City FC Supporters are finally rewarded for keeping the faith in first-ever win over the Red Bulls
by Nick Chavez | Wednesday, July 06, 2016
You gotta give him credit. Head Coach Patrick Vieira stuck to his guns, made slight tactical adjustments where he needed to, and otherwise stubbornly stuck to his philosophy of playing from the back. You also have to give New York City FC supporters tons of credit, as they stuck with their team, came out 33,000 strong and defiantly sang and created an atmosphere as if the brutal 7-0 never happened.
Fittingly, both Vieira and the fans’ faith were amply rewarded as New York City comfortably beat the Red Bulls for the first time in its short history, leaving the usually prolific team from New Jersey scoreless in Yankee Stadium, while putting two goals of their own past Luis Robles.
And just like that, on that fateful afternoon, the heavy weight of four crushing losses to the local rivals was cathartically purged. The monkey was off NYCFC’s back. And it’s off for good.
A match souvenir I found on New York City FC’s locker room floor during post-match interviews.
As Mike Anderer of Blue City Radio fame whispered to me directly following the game while waiting for the coaches in the post-match presser, “At times it felt like it was never going to happen.”
Indeed. Soccer is one of the few major sports where you only get to play each team about 2 to 3 times a year, especially if you don’t make the playoffs or meet in a cup competition. In New York City FC’s very short history, there have been fans waiting since 2014, before the roster was even filled, to enjoy a victory over the Red Bulls.
In 2015, an expansion side made up mostly of cast-aways, trying to gel and further weakened by numerous injuries and European season-worn Lampard and Pirlo both showing up in the 2nd half of the season helped make sure that NYCFC was swept in all three matches to a red-hot, dynamic Red Bull side with 20 years to build towards this chemistry and identity.
Still patiently waiting to finally experience some joy (even a shared point) against their cross-river rivals, New York City fans waited till May of 2016 only to be buried by an avalanche of 7 goals at home. The wait continued, and this time, with a lot of anxiety and humiliation piled on.
In what must have started to feel like an eternity to get revenge, fans had to start to asking themselves, “Can we beat the Red Bulls? When is this going to happen?”
It finally happened on Sunday, July 3rd. In an extremely focused, determined effort, Vieira’s men showed exactly what they are made of. They cast aside the heavy pressure, the trauma of a humiliating defeat, and any self-doubt that their chosen style of possession play, beginning with the feet of goalkeeper Josh Saunders, can actually be effective against the swarming Red Bull high press.
It was extremely bold by Vieira to continue in this vein and not try a significant change in approach. But the legendary midfielder-turned-coach proved that his talents and knowledge of the game aren’t restricted to what he can personally do on the pitch. He proved his serene confidence, and the faith placed in him by City Football Group, is founded in substance.
But, he couldn’t have done it without Jack. The red-hot 19-year old rookie Jack “The Ripper” Harrison, who has been out injured the entire season before debuting at the end of the first Hudson Derby in late May, took matters into his own hands.
In the 8th minute, Harrison received a ball from a Pirlo corner, charged forward and skillfully popped a ball over two Red Bull defenders, and powered a right-footed near post shot that was too hot to handle for the usually excellent Luis Robles.
And in the 66th minute, Lampard played the rampant Harrison forward, who found David Villa with a perfectly-timed, curling low-cross in front of Red Bull’s goal, which “El Guaje” cooly finished like he has over a hundred times before in his storied career.
Yankee Stadium erupted, and you could see how much it meant to the passionate and committed New York City Captain to have given this “present”, as he called it post-match, to the faithful Celeste support. It’s a result that also puts NYCFC back on the top of the Eastern Conference table.
At the moment, Red bulls have little else to hang their hats on. Their utter dominance of NYCFC on national television over the past year has not brought in any significant increase of new fans or enthusiasm for its team outside of the die-hard support in the South Ward. Having NYCFC’s number on the pitch was all they had.
With the monkey off NYCFC’s back and its weapons all available and gelling, New York City FC should be a much more formidable adversary for Jersey’s finest and any other side in Major League Soccer, for that matter.
New York City FC having the confidence in knowing they can contain and put the Red Bulls to the sword is psychologically very significant, and I expect New York City to get at least a point out of their last meeting of the regular season in Red Bull Arena on Sunday, July 24th.
New York City will still be hungry and looking to balance out the Hudson Derby head-to-head record. The Bronx Blues had a taste of revenge , and they’ll be hungry for more, this time in front of their rival’s home fans in New Jersey. Furthermore, NYCFC could expect some significant reinforcements in the summer with Poku recently sold to Miami FC, and Mix Diskerud and Steven Mendoza potentially on their way out the door as well.
Finally, with the media saying, “New York is now blue”, I’d like to remind them that New York has been blue since at least the inaugural game of the 2015 season. New York isn’t any other color in any significant way. Just like New York City beating the Sounders doesn’t make Seattle blue in any real way, nor does when the Red Bulls or any other team beats New York City does that make the City any other color than blue. The City belongs to NYCFC off the field, and now on the field as well.
That’s just the reality of it until it isn’t anymore, which I have no good reason to believe will ever happen, honestly. New York City FC fans vastly outnumber any Red Bull fans in the City, and the media and pundits would do well to remember that. And when City Football Group finally build that soccer-specific stadium in the City limits, it will be a battle up Everest for any team based in New Jersey to challenge NYCFC’s popularity in the Big Apple.
So, no, New York has been blue since NYCFC’s first-ever game, but yes, the Hudson Derby is now finally blue for the first time. Which begs the question: Do Red Bull fans and players still wish they could play New York City FC every week? Hold that thought, I’m fresh out of tea.