On Thursday evening, New York City FC and the New York Red Bulls battled it out in the Hudson River Derby, Leagues Cup edition. The two rivals met in the Round of 32, looking for a win in an otherwise not-so-great 2023 season for both sides.
Nick Cushing, except for the James Sands and Alfredo Morales switch, put out the same Starting XI that beat Toronto FC last week. Everyone hoped the lineup was part of the goal-scoring surge, and then the addition of Mounsef Bakrar. But the questions remained: could NYCFC win again, and send their rival out of the Leagues Cup?
The answer is no. NYCFC fell to the Red Bulls, 1-0, after a silly foul led to a penalty kick. The goals that arrived last week refused to show up. Hence, the Pigeons are out of the Leagues Cup.
Like every Hudson River Derby, a lot occurred during the game. Here are three things we learned from the battle.
Here are three things we learned from the Hudson River Derby
1. Omir Fernandez continues to be a problem for NYCFC
For the fourth time, Omir Fernandez scored for the Red Bulls against NYCFC. The American likes to score against the Pigeons, and Thursday’s game was no different. However, this time it was due to a penalty kick after James Sands gave up a foul in the box around the 28th minute.
As a result, the goal was easily put away by Fernandez. He continues to be a problem for NYCFC. Like he did earlier in the Major League Soccer season, he scored the Red Bull’s winning goal against the Bronx team. Yes, this goal was due to a penalty kick, but the players need to figure out how to stop him before they meet again later this season.
2. The Toronto match could have been an outlier
When New York City FC scored five against Toronto FC, the excitement and hope were widespread. Was Bakrar really the missing piece? Were the NYCFC players able to score?
Based on the Hudson River Derby, it does seem like the last fixture was an outlier. Notably, Toronto has struggled tremendously with their defense in 2023, and the Pigeons took advantage. Yet against the Red Bulls, NYCFC could not find the goals. The struggles that plagued them throughout the season returned, and not even some great plays by Bakrar could save them.
Still, it needs to be said, regardless of the season, that NYCFC has struggled against their rivals when they were the visitors to Red Bull Arena. This easily could have continued to be a factor, even if the Pigeons were at the top of the Eastern Conference table.
3. Nick Cushing’s changes did not help NYCFC
When Cushing made his changes throughout the second half, it was clear they were not working. The substitutions did not help with what the team needed the most: goals. It was smart to take Andres Jasson out, but Matías Pellegrini once again proved why he should not be making the salary he makes, and why NYCFC should not have brought him back.
Then, why did the head coach take Bakrar out in the 79th minute? He was still a major attacking threat; could he not play the full 90 minutes? Moreover, why wait to put Gabriel Segal on in stoppage time? He barely had a chance to try and be the late-goal hero he has been before.
It was also interesting that Cushing switched from a four-man backline to a five-man at the half. Obviously, his plan of action did not work, and now New York City FC will not play another match until August 20. The exit from the Leagues Cup stings, and the questions about the team are back with a vengeance.