New York City FC, Red Bulls renew rivalry in New Jersey

David Villa and Bradley Wright-Phillips lead their clubs into the latest Hudson River Derby matchup.
David Villa and Bradley Wright-Phillips lead their clubs into the latest Hudson River Derby matchup. Photo Credit: Vincent Barone

New York City FC heads across the Hudson this weekend to renew its rivalry with the New York Red Bulls.

Saturday afternoon’s game at Rud Bull Arena in Harrison, New Jersey is the first of three meetings this season and can provide an early test for each. Both teams are playoff contenders after two months, with NYCFC (6-1-2, 20 points) holding the lead atop the Eastern Conference and the Red Bulls (4-3-0, 12 points) hanging on in the sixth position. Here are three keys to an NYCFC win in the Hudson River Derby.

Keep on scoring

The Blues rebounded from their first shutout with three goals against FC Dallas last Sunday. The offense has been potent, with three players holding four goals to their stat sheets. That flexibility can be used to their advantage Saturday. The Red Bulls have been featuring a new center back pairing of Aaron Long and Tim Parker. The other option is three players on the back line instead of four. A formation in flux provides a key opportunity for NYCFC to strike.

Even with so many scoring options, now is the time to find captain David Villa. The striker got off to a relatively slow start and battled injury this year, but he netted his 400th and 401st career goals against Dallas. He’s a motor to keep running, which should return him to option No. 1 for the time being.

Red Bulls’ big guns

Bradley Wright-Phillips ranks third in MLS scoring with five goals and fourth in assists with four this season. Limiting his touches will be a big part of any NYCFC win, but the opposing offense doesn’t stop with him.

Daniel Royer started getting in to form with his first goal of the season last week, but he shouldn’t be underestimated after tallying 12 a year ago.

Get past the past

NYCFC is 1-4-1 against their rivals in New Jersey, across all competitions. The club hasn’t been much better at home either, sporting a 2-2 record that included a 7-0 drubbing in 2016.

However, the Blues are unbeaten in the clubs’ last three meetings, and this is as good a time as any to leave past demons in the history books. This team has proved that it can upend anyone already this season, and defeating the Red Bulls can solidify this squad’s ceiling.