New York Red Bulls forward Bradley Wright-Phillips (99) in action against the D.C. United during the first half of an MLS playoff soccer match, Sunday, Nov. 2, 2014, in Harrison, N.J.
Associated Press / Adam Hunger, File

If there are any doubts as to whether there is a legitimate New York/New Jersey MLS Derby, you can now put those doubts to rest. Last Sunday night’s New York Red Bulls-New York City Football Club MLS match-up at Red Bull Arena, the first of three this season, had all the trappings of an intense local derby brewing. Amidst all the intense trappings, which ignited players and fans alike, the New York Red Bulls got the all-important first dibs on area bragging rights as it outplayed New York City FC, 2-1, for a victory on two goals from Bradley Wright-Phillips.

NYCFC (1-6-3, 6 pts.) was greeted by a very intense atmosphere at Red Bull Arena. The Red Bulls (4-1-4, 16 pts.) fans, the majority that made up the 25,217 fans that was the seventh largest crowd at Red Bull Arena and the 15th sellout there, showed no mercy to the first-year MLS team; Red Bulls fans, donned their famous red jerseys and red flags, greeted the NYFC players and their blue-and-white clad visitors with a 50-foot banner that signaled the start of a major rivalry and stated: “20 Years Late and a Stadium short!” Beneath the headline was a cartoon character dressed in a NYCFC uniform that was imprinted with the line, “Man City Lite” a reference to the owners of NYCFC, Manchester City FC in English. Everyone in the stadium could sense that a long and competitive derby is in the making: The Red versus The Blue!

The New York/New Jersey Derby, the Hudson River Derby or the Cross River Derby, call it what you may, was in full glow and it showed, especially on NYCFC, because they seem the nervous visitors who couldn’t shoot straight, while the hosts seemed determined to make a statement of dominance. And they did by playing a man short and dominating the proceedings from the outset. At the four-minute mark, Wright-Phillips combined with midfielder Lloyd Sam to put the Red Bulls ahead, 1-0; and despite Red Bull defender Matt Miazga’s red card in the 36th minute for his second dangerous, the hosts managed to maintain its dominance for the 1-0 halftime lead.

In the second half, Wright-Phillips combined this time with Sam and midfielder Sacha Kljestan to put the hosts ahead, 2-0, on the stroke of the 52nd minute. NYCFC showed some fight and pressured New York and eventually pulled a goal back in the 76th minute through second half substitute Patrick Mullins, but this was too late. The Red Bulls were all business and bragging rights were theirs, at least until Sunday, June 28, when the Red Bulls come across the Hudson River for a Yankee Stadium showdown .

The Red Bulls clearly were the better team; they knew that they were in an important game and came out in high-intensity mode to make a statement. The Red Bulls pressured the ball early and forced NYCFC mistakes; when the hosts lost possession of the ball, they tried immediately to win it back and were very successful. Fast and furious fullbacks Chris Duvall on the right and Jamaican Kemar Lawrence on the left were excellent throughout the contest and were the main reason that the Red Bulls survived a late onslaught .

New York City FC failed to make use of the man advantage that they had for most of the game; coach Jason Kreis should have changed NYCFC’s formation and put an extra man in midfield to take away the advantage that the Red Bulls enjoyed; he chose instead to stay with the regular four-man backline. The visitors were overwhelmed in the first half and showed their lack of playing experience as a team. Kreis could have helped his squad with some creative thinking and daring.

David Villa, the former Spain international from whom much is expected, was out of form and ineffective; he was coming off injury and Kreis would have helped his team by starting midfielder Ballouchy, who had been scoring recently for the team, ahead of Villa.

Wright-Phillips, five goals on the season after his double strike on Sunday, was voted MLS Player of the Week. He is now 5th on the Red Bulls all-time scoring list with 33 goals, and he is tied in third place with seven multi-goal games. The Red Bulls next play Friday night, May 15, at Sporting Kansas City

MLS Round-up

Mauro Diaz had an assist and a goal to lead host FC Dallas to a 2-1 come-from-behind win over the Los Angeles Galaxy; Los Angeles took the lead in the 60th minutes through Gyasi Zardes in the 60th minute, but Panamanian Blas Perez got help from Diaz for the equalizer the 70th minute, and so did Tesho Akindele on his winner late in the game. The Columbus Crew pulled off an upset when it beat the Seattle Sounders, 3-2. Kie Kamara gave the host Crew a lead in the game before Clint Dempsey tied the game; Kamara scored again and Federico Higuain extended the Crew’s lead to 3-1, before a Dempsey goal mad the score close. Meanwhile, DC United and Sporting Kansas City played to a 1-1 draw. Jairo Arrieta scored for United in the first half and Dom Dwyer equalized for Sporting in the second.

RLS (Real Salt Lake) beat host Chicago Fire, 2-1. Alvaro Saborio and Luke Mulholland tallied for RSL while Jeff Larentowicz got the love goal for Chicago; Portland Timbers topped the Montreal Impact, 2-1, on Diego Valeri’s two goals. Montreal defender scored for the home team and it was the host Vancouver Whitecaps over the Philadelphia Union, 3-0. Pedro Morales, Octavio Rivero and Jamaican international Darren Mattocks scored for the Whitecaps.

New York City FC’s Patrick Mullins celebrates after scoring the team’s second goal against the New England Revolution in an MLS soccer game in New York on Sunday, March 15, 2015. New York won the game 2-0.
Associated Press / Peter Morgan, File

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