The New York Soccer Battle, Ep. 1By: Juan Mesa
The day New York soccer fans have been waiting for is finally here. The New York Red Bulls will be hosting the New York City FC on Sunday, May 10 for the first New York clásico in MLS history.
Preseason scandals, like Frank Lampard not arriving to play a whole season with NYCFC or the Red Bulls firing beloved Mike Petke (their most successful coach ever), are a thing of the past. The hour of truth, the clash of both teams competing for the passions of demanding Big Apple fans, is finally here.
Here is what to expect.
THE SCENARIO. The MLS was smart to schedule this nationally televised game at Red Bull Arena—arguably the best soccer-specific stadium in the country. The facility has the perfect acoustics for loud supporters, and a packed house will look great. The trip to Harrison, New Jersey, is totally worth it, just take a couple of tips from someone who has been going there for years: consider using PATH and NJ Transit (and check schedules) to plan your trip, and explore Harrison if you are a meat eater. Those traditional Brazilian and Portuguese restaurants are something you don’t see in NYC anymore.
STATUS OF THE RED BULLS. The home team had a seven-game unbeaten run until losing to the New England Revolution last Saturday. The team has replaced Thierry Henry’s magic with high pressure and tons of energy as if the players were honoring the multinational corporation that owns the team. But the Red Bulls haven’t won in the past three games, while striker Bradley Wright-Phillips has not been as lethal as he was during the Henry days.
STATUS OF THE NYCFC. So far, the new MLS franchise hasn’t really been the stellar squad many expected. It arrives to the derby with no wins in the past seven games and three consecutive losses. Injuries have punished the team severely, the most crucial being the one of Spaniard star David Villa, who was out of action for two games before playing 30 minutes in the 3-1 loss against the Seattle Sounders on Sunday. The team is able to hold possession, but defense is a liability. The good news for the blue team is that Villa is ready to go from minute one against the Red Bulls.
PLAYERS TO WATCH. Two players who stand out in the Red Bulls’ midfield this season: Felipe and Lloyd Sam. The latter is the one with magic in his feet, while the Brazilian propels his teammates like a dynamo. On the visitor’s side, keep an eye on rookie Khiry Shelton, a strong and skillful forward, and USMNT’s Mix Diskerud, an elegant midfielder key in keeping the ball away from the enemy.
HOW TO ENRAGE RED BULLS FANS. Tell them their team is named after an energy drink corporation and remind them they haven’t won a championship in 19 years of competition. That will inspire them to embark in an impossible argument trying to prove they are real New Yorkers, even when they have played in Jersey forever.
HOW TO ENRAGE NYCFC FANS. They don’t like to hear they are Manchester City’s farm team (NYCFC is owned by the English side). They will stubbornly defend the far views of Yankee Stadium, the baseball park where they play home games. They will deny that most of them are nothing but lazy people who never bothered to cross the Hudson to support the growth of soccer in America during the last two decades, waiting for a team to come closer to them.