It’s Rivalry Week in MLS! Red Bulls-NYCFC grabbing attention
FILE – In this Sunday, March 5, 2017 file photo, New York Red Bulls forward Bradley Wright-Phillips (99) dribbles as Atlanta United midfielder Carlos Carmona (14) defends in the second half of an MLS soccer game in Atlanta. It’s Rivalry Week for Major League Soccer with three marquee matchups set for this weekend. The Hudson River Derby between the Red Bulls and NYCFC on Saturday, June 24, 2017 has been grabbing much of the attention. (AP Photo/Todd Kirkland, File)
Bright lights. Big city. Big game.
It’s Rivalry Week for Major League Soccer with three marquee matchups set for the weekend. But Saturday’s Hudson River Derby between the Red Bulls and NYCFC has been grabbing much of the attention.
The rivalry is new, started when NYFC joined the league in 2015, but geography made it a hit with fans. Hype around the game at Red Bull Arena was already underway Tuesday when representatives from the league and both teams sounded Nasdaq’s closing bell.
Many teams are fond of dubbing these rivalry meetings “just another game.” That’s not the case here, according to Red Bulls striker Bradley Wright-Phillips, who certainly knows a thing or two about rivalries from his time at Manchester City.
“Me personally, there’s a different excitement. I get excited about every game, but a derby is different. There’s a little bit of nerves there and you can’t wait for the game to start. It definitely feels different the night before and leading up to it,” he said.
There’s an added wrinkle to this one: The two teams just met last week in a U.S. Open Cup match, with the Red Bulls winning 1-0 in what one player called a “warm-up game.”
NYFC and the Red Bulls have met seven times before, with the Red Bulls holding a 6-1 advantage — including that Open Cup match. For Red Bulls fans, the defining moment in the young rivalry came in May 2016 when the Red Bulls beat NYCFC 7-0 at Yankee Stadium.
“There is a respect between the two teams, no doubt about it. But I think there’s pride as well, that both teams want to be the best team in the city — and that’s what this game is all about,” NYCFC coach Patrick Vieira said. “You don’t want to lose to them. That’s important to us, to turn this thing around because we’ve played them seven times and we’ve only won once.”
Both teams are coming off league wins. NYCFC defeated the Sounders 2-1 last weekend at Yankee Stadium while the Red Bulls got a much-needed 2-0 road victory at the Philadelphia Union.
The game will also showcase two of the league’s top talents: Wright-Phillips on the Red Bulls’ side and NYFC’s David Villa.
Villa, who won a World Cup with Spain in 2010, just scored his 50th and 51st MLS goals in the victory over the Sounders. It was his 13th career multi-goal game.
Villa reached the 50-goal milestone in just 79 MLS matches, fifth-fastest in league history. The league’s reigning MVP, he’s currently got 10 goals in 15 games, tied for second in the league behind Chicago’s Nemanja Nikolic (13).
Wright-Phillips also scored two goals in his team’s victory over Philadelphia. In the six league matches against NYCFC, he has eight goals.
The reigning Golden Boot winner shrugs off the characterization that the game is a battle between him and Villa.
“I definitely respect him,” Wright-Phillips said. “I think he came into the league with a great attitude and he’s done very well.”
A look at the other rivalry matches set for this weekend:
SEATTLE SOUNDERS AT PORTLAND TIMBERS: The battle for the Cascadia Cup continues Sunday night in a rivalry that stretches to 1975 when both teams were part of the old North American Soccer League.
The Cascadia Cup is different from the league’s other rivalries because it’s a three-way competition that also involves the Vancouver Whitecaps, with the winner decided on points. There’s also an actual trophy, which was purchased by fans in 2004.
All three teams finished with nine points last year, but Vancouver won on goal differential.
The Sounders have two wins against the Timbers this season, a 1-0 victory at home on May 27, and a 2-1 win in a U.S. Open Cup match last week. Since 1975, the Sounders have a 50-35-12 advantage.
The Timbers have had a rough go of it lately. In addition to the Open Cup loss to the Sounders, Portland fell 2-1 on the road to the Rapids last weekend — conceding both Colorado goals in the second half.
FC DALLAS AT HOUSTON DYNAMO: Back on May 28, for the first edition of this season’s Texas Derby, the two teams played to a scoreless draw.
Now the teams are tied (with Portland) for second place points-wise in the Western Conference. Sporting Kansas City is at the top with a game against the LA Galaxy this weekend.
Dallas, of course, won the Supporters’ Shield last year and was the last undefeated team in the conference this season. The Dynamo have made strides this season under coach Wilmer Cabrera and have seen the resurgence of forward Erick Torres, who has 10 goals this season.
Dallas has won six of the last nine MLS matches between the two teams, with a pair of draws.