NEW YORK CITY, NY – New York City FC has made it a habit to come out strong after a loss. They’ll get the opportunity to continue that tradition this Sunday against their not-really-cross-town rivals, New
York Jersey Red Bull. Let’s take a look:
Tale of the Tape
The Red Bulls are 11-8-2 this season with 35 points from 21 matches. Just two points below City, the team cross-river rivals have netted 32 goals this year lead by Bradley Wright-Phillips (11). Second-year standout Daniel Royer has come alive in recent weeks, scoring six goals in his last five matches to bring his total up to ten. Bond-villain-turned-soccer-player Sacha Kljestan isn’t quite on pace to match his 20-assist total from a season ago, but with four assists in his last three matches (ten total) he has also found a groove. The red team also boast the fifth-stingiest defense in the league, having conceded only 26 goals. Red Bulls have come out winners in six of their last eight matches, with their only losses coming at the hands of Montreal…and NYCFC. They are 4-6-0 on the road.
New York City FC stands 11-7-4 with 37 points from 22 matches. They are currently tied with Chicago for the second-most league goals scored this season with 40, lead by captain David Villa‘s 14. Villa is also tied with Maxi Moralez for the team lead in assists with seven. Jack Harrison sits behind Villa with eight goals and six assists. The second-year SuperDraftee has two goals to his credit against Red Bull, most recently the opening goal from the first meeting this season. After last week’s disappointing 4-0 loss to Toronto, City has dropped in the “Goals Against” category from 6th to 10th with 31. They are 7-1-3 at home, and have only two wins and a draw in their last five.
Diet Red Bull
After winning at Red Bull Arena for the first time ever earlier this season, NYCFC will host a new-look Red Bull team in their second meeting. Much has been made of Jesse Marsch‘s decision to switch to three at the back for Red Bull, who have won four straight. The formation change, though, only made it’s debut two weeks ago.
“We just tried to rotate things mainly for three reasons,” Marsch said. “One was, we were giving up so many set-piece goals, and we felt by having another center back or center-back type player it would give us more guys on the field that would have height and strength and do well in aerial duels. Second was to free up Sacha more. Teams were really locking into Sacha – and then we felt like the big tactic playing against us was to switch the ball. The ability to lock down the wings has meant the teams have to come down the middle on us, then they have to do deal with our pressure. Sacha, tactics, set pieces have led to the decisions.”
The Boys (in Blue) are Back in Town
City’s strength, of course, exists both on the wings and through the middle – when everyone is healthy and available. Yangel Herrera will make his return from a red card suspension acquired early against Chicago two weeks ago. Herrera’s presence was sorely missed last weekend in Toronto, but having him back in the middle with Maxi Moralez and Alex Ring gives City one of the most effective midfields in the league. Rodney Wallace is listed as questionable in this week’s injury report, and video released by the team shows he’s begun training drills on his own. He’ll likely not be included in this match, but never say never.
In Wallace’s absence, we will see one of Tommy McNamara – who started both Toronto matches – or Jonathan Lewis. Given disappointing performances of the last few matches, Lewis probably deserves consideration to start in this Hudson River Derby. Lining up McNamara against the likes of Sean Davis and Tyler Adams seems like a major disadvantage, as Davis is faster than McNamara and Adams is much more physical. While Wallace would be the ideal candidate to take on that pairing, in his absence, speed kills. Lewis has speed to burn, and the technical skill to make something out of nothing if he gets separation.
Battles to Watch
Jack Harrison & Jon Lewis/Tommy McNamara vs. Alex Muyl & Tyler Adams: Control of the wings is something Jesse Marsch credits for the resurgence of Sacha Kljestan. Harrison has shown in the past that he’s more than capable of owning his side of the field against Red Bull, and can beat Luis Robles to boot. The boy-wonder has been on a bit of a slide lately, being heavily relied on to create NYCFC’s attack when everything seemed to be falling down around him. Jack has been one of the sadly few that always shows up for Derby matches, and what better way to get back in form than downing a rival for the second time in a season?
Yangel Herrera vs. Sacha Kljestan: In the same way Herrera’s play vs. Bastian Schweinsteiger was key going into the Chicago match, (a battle he was very clearly winning before being sent off) neutralizing Kljestan will be the crux of shutting down the Red Bull attack. Herrera is certainly the faster and stronger of the two, but Kljestan’s experience gives him a composure the young Venezuelan lacks. Sacha is also clever in his gamesmanship – getting under a player’s skin – which is something Herrera will have to be wary of.
Alex Ring vs. Daniel Royer: BWP likes to play on his own, and Alex Callens and Frederic Brillant will have their hands full with him, but Royer is really the more dangerous of the two. Wright-Phillips is a known quantity to NYCFC, and he will certainly get his chances, but limiting those chances will be key. Royer is on fire lately, and it will be the charge of Ethan White, Moralez and Ring. White and Moralez must be able to shut down Royer’s runs up the outside and force him in toward Ring who will can go toe-to-toe with him.
New York City FC hosts New York Red Bull on Sunday 8/6 at 6pm.
TV: FS1/FOX Deportes
Radio: WFAN 660AM; 101.9FM/WADO 1280AM; 96.3FM-HD3