On Saturday, New York City FC faced the New York Red Bulls in the second regular season Hudson River Derby of the year. Having already beaten their rivals at Red Bull Arena, the Pigeons looked to complete the Major League Soccer season sweep for the first time in the team’s history.
Before the match even began though, there was controversy thanks to the New Jersey club’s head coach. Gerhard Struber told the media last week that it was “crystal clear” that his team “will win” the match against NYCFC. He discussed the actual New York team’s recent slide, and believed his team was in a better position to take all three points.
As such, the Pigeons had a little extra motivation going into the derby. Plus, the Campeones Cup win clearly buoyed the players’ confidence, and this was seen as they entered this matchup against the Red Bulls.
The motivation and confidence led NYCFC to a 2-0 win in front of a sold-out crowd, completing the MLS sweep. Alexander Callens and Santiago Rodríguez led the team with first half goals, and the defensive effort in the second half led to all three points.
Speaking about Callens, the New York City FC defender once again had a superb performance, which included the opening goal.
New York City FC won the second Hudson River Derby of the season
In the first minute, NYCFC quickly won a corner kick. Maxi Moralez sent the ball into the box, and Rodríguez got the first touch and sent the ball toward goal. In a flash, Callens ran toward the goal and headed it into the back of the net. There was nothing anyone on the Red Bulls could do. It was a right time, right place moment, and also the potential NYCFC Defender of the Year reacted quickly.
That goal set the pace of the first half, and the Bronx side dominated. They had over 64 percent of the possession but also took four of their five shots in the first 45 minutes. The two on target in that half ended up being the two goals that led to the win as well.
Truthfully, the second half was not as good offensively for NYCFC. However, while the New Jersey side attempted to take control of the game, the Pigeons defended well and limited the chances for the opposing players.
Overall, they had almost twice the amount of clearances compared to the Red Bulls and also led in interceptions. The defense was also compact and held the lines in order to limit the shots on target.
NYCFC Head Coach, Nick Cushing, called the match a “10 out of 10”, and added the following about the game:
"The goal I was really happy with but that whole start to the game -- the way the team applied themselves offensively and defensively really set the tone of the game for us. I knew the game was going to go this way. We played some really good football, but we also showed we can do the other side of the game: we can fight, and we can defend, and we can win first and second balls."- Nick Cushing
NYCFC are now one point behind the Red Bulls in the Eastern Conference standings. If the team can win their last two matches, and if the Red Bulls falter any of their final fixtures, then the Pigeons can jump up into third place.
For now, the international break is about to begin, so the majority of New York City FC will get a much needed rest but can also focus on the end of the season.
Maybe, just maybe, things are finally starting to turn around.
Oh, and New York is blue.