Yes, after what seemed like an eternity, NYCFC finally beat the Energy Drinks by that good ol’ American scoreline of dos a cero in one of Major League Soccer’s premier show-pieces.
It was a day of immense passion from both clubs’ supporters, and even though NYCFC fans have had to endure so many disappointing meetings with the Red Bulls, it was remarkable how up for it they were in Red Bull Arena’s North End. There was certainly something in the air, and it was a cold dish prepared by Patrick Vieira called “Revenge.”
As I predicted, Red Bulls would have a much harder time bullying New York City’s midfield and back four with players of the motor, drive and aggressive tenacity of Yangel Herrera, Alexander Ring and Rodney Wallace.
These players present many more problems than the “matador defense” of the 38 year-old Andrea Pirlo, as well as the other aging midfielders of NYCFC’s past that Red Bull used to eat for lunch.
And not only do these new players have a better engine and youth on their side; they’re just plain classy.
Alex “The Ring of Power” Ring has proven all season to not only be an inexhaustible hard man, but he also has the polished technique, poise and intelligence that makes him a cut above most of his peers in MLS.
Yangel Herrera, the returning prodigy who captained Venezuela through its epic U-20 World Cup run (winning the Bronze Ball in the process), also shares these qualities, but likely has an even higher ceiling, performing at such a high level at only the age of 19.
There’s no wonder why Manchester City F.C. signed him on loan and, oh, by the way, is anyone still upset or insecure about City sending its sister club in the Bronx young, world-class talent like this? Yea, I didn’t think so.
Rodney “The Rodfather” Wallace has shown some of his best MLS form this season, and this is a former MLS Cup champion we’re talking about here. His tireless hurrying, defending from the front, and launching his body with reckless abandon to try to finish off plays have been a nightmare for New York City’s opponents, and have also frequently led to goals.
Jack Harrison continues his strong track record against the Red Bulls with the opening goal that was coolly taken. He really seems to be up for the Hudson Derbies, and I also would like to see more of him pulling the strings centrally when Maxi Moralez isn’t available. He performed very well in that part of the field during his college career, and he may be New York City’s best option as an advanced central play-maker in El Frasquito’s absence. He’s certainly got the class and vision and, yes, the goal he scored was from a central position as well.
Finally, how can I not mention Ben Sweat playing the game of his life in such an important match? Que cabeZAzo from the Florida native, landing that final gut punch on the Taurine Titans in their own back yard.
With all of NYCFC’s players fighting with this level of commitment, and New York’s faithful supporting as intensely as they did, every match will be a battle and true test of will for any side trying to take 3 points off of New York City’s dinner plate.
Keep in mind that Ronald Matarrita, one of the best left backs in the league, was still very rusty coming into the 2nd half, and New York City was missing its main play-maker and designated player Maxi Moralez. Oh, and wait until NYCFC fills up that next Designated Player spot when the legendary Andrea Pirlo finally vacates that role.
You’re looking at an MLS Cup contender already, one of the very best teams in the league, and some of its biggest pieces are still missing. Furthermore, the entire team still hasn’t even had enough time together to develop its chemistry to its full potential because of absences due to international duty and injuries throughout the year. We likely haven’t seen the best NYCFC yet in 2017.
While we’re at it, it must be said that Patrick Vieira, Claudio Reyna, David Lee and CFG’s scouting have been simply brilliant bringing in so many quality players in such short order, turning a very weak expansion side to one of MLS’s most powerful sides in 2 years, while under the constraints of MLS’s conservative salary cap rules.
Unfortunately, New York City will be losing some of these key players again as Matarrita, Wallace, Sean Johnson and Miguel Camargo are all set to feature for their National Teams for the Gold Cup, and Moralez is still day-to-day recovering from his injury.
Just something to keep in mind, even if NYCFC go on a disappointing stretch with these players absent, as long as they’re all back and healthy come playoff time, New York City will be a team every single MLS team (yes, including the Red Bulls) will want to avoid.
More On The Supporters On Derby Day
It was interesting to see how the Red Bull fans so “gracefully” handled that loss in Red Bull Arena, eh?
So often perched on their high-horse in sweeping judgement of the entire NYCFC fan base focusing on the alleged reports of misbehavior of only a meager handful of NYCFC fans, Red Bull fans in the South Ward were seen throwing numerous beers at the referee and players in the 2nd half, talking trash to NYCFC fans near their own supporters section (and at least one NYCFC supporter even got attacked just outside of that section).
On the way out of the stadium in the parking lot, at least two groups of Red Bull fans were talking trash to me and my friend The Lone Wolf, completely unprovoked, in the exact same manner they like to negatively characterize New York City fans.
Keep in mind, I am only mentioning what I saw first hand, and I wouldn’t be the least bit surprised to hear I wasn’t the only one. What a coincidence that their standard of behavior so quickly unravels after tasting rare defeat at the hands of NYCFC? Should we make sweeping judgments about their entire fan base based on these incidents? Because that’s what so many MLS fans and pundits seem to do in regards to New York City supporters.
In any case, I do hope Red Bull fans rein themselves in better in the face of future adversity, and also, stop being such whiny hypocrites.
But, let’s not end this on a sour note. Overall, I was very proud of both teams’ supporters, as well as the rest of the fans who eventually ended up filling most of the stadium. The rabid and raucous atmosphere all fans in attendance provided was exactly what was needed on network television to improve the perception of the league, and win new fans locally and abroad.
This is why New York City FC was brought into the league in 2015, and the Red Bulls and all of MLS are enjoying much improved relevance in the country’s most-important market and internationally because of it. Hell, it’s almost like launching New York City FC when they did was a good idea! Who would’ve thought?
One more thing I want to remind MLS fans of: Your vocal, in-stadium support does matter to the players you support. Players throughout the history of football have always admitted over and over again how much it drives them on and motivates them to give more than they even thought they had. Never forget that fact.
When you sing, chant, and clap all game, showing up in big numbers, you truly did help earn every single point won. These victories are truly a collaboration. New York City fans were in top form. Loud and optimistic as ever, even while in that New Jersey arena that has always made them leave disappointed. New York City fans continued to believe, knowing that their time would come. Well it came on Saturday, and boy did they deservedly relish it.
Enjoy this one, New York. You earned it. New York, as always, is blue. And, hell, now so is New Jersey!
Photo Credits: Juan Carlos Rubiano (IG: OhCitySaidI)