The New York Red Bulls hosted New York City FC in Harrison, New Jersey on Sunday night in the first New York Derby.
The Red Bulls got off to a quick start as Lloyd Sam dribbled to the end line and chipped the ball into the six-yard box to find a wide-open Bradley Wright-Phillips in the 4th minute. 20-year-old Red Bulls youth product Matt Miazga was sent off in the 36th minute after picking up a silly 2nd yellow card. In the few NYRB games I’ve watched this season, Miazga has been very impressive at CB but his inexperience certainly showed in the derby. He will be travelling to New Zealand soon to represent the United States in the U-20 World Cup, which starts at the end of this month. The Red Bulls actually continued to play well and keep a decent amount of possession after going a man down.
As the 2nd half got under way, NYCFC started having more possession. But in the 52nd minute the Red Bulls started a counter attack as Lloyd Sam played a nice ball out wide to Sasha Kljestan who then played a square ball into the box for Wright-Phillips to tap in. NYCFC’s defense was picked apart way to easily as BWP scored both goals unmarked inside the box. NYCFC manager Jason Kreis showed some courage substituting his two best players, Mix Diskerud and David Villa, in the 64th and 68th minute respectively. Diskerud and Villa both massively underperformed and were disappointing to say the least. Kreis’ substitutions did pay off as Patrick Mullins got on the end of a cross and slotted the ball home in the 76th minute. NYCFC tried to salvage an equalizer but were unsuccessful as the Red Bulls hung on to win the first New York Derby. I was disappointed with the lack of urgency and liveliness from NYCFC since they were trailing with a man up for nearly an hour.
A few observations I had from watching the match. First off, as almost anyone who’s seen them play, NYCFC defense is dreadful. They aren’t very good at possessing the ball and they’re even worse defending. They’re quite disorganized and aren’t a cohesive unit. That should be the team’s first area to improve. They also lack pure technical ability in the midfield. NYCFC misplaced way too many passes in the middle of the park. Frank Lampard will certainly be able to help improve the midfield when he joins the team this summer. On the other hand, the Red Bulls central midfielders Sasha Kljestan, Dax McCarthy and Felipe have done a fantastic job so far this season controlling and dictating play.
It was clear watching this game that NYCFC is an expansion team, which lacks experience. After they went up a man they seemed as if they didn’t really know what to do or how to manage the game.
Too many players on the field just had poor first touches. A quality first touch is key to playing a possession-based style of soccer and it is evident that the first touch of an average MLS player is a key difference to the big leagues in Europe. An improvement of players’ first touch and decision making will make MLS soccer better.