Through all of the criticisms that have surrounded New York City FC in their first year-and-a-half of MLS play, the team’s greatest struggle has been finding a way to overcome newfound rivals New York Red Bulls.
In their first four meetings since 2015, the Red Bulls have not only swept NYCFC in the Hudson Derby but they’ve done so in convincing fashion, which was highlighted by their 7-0 beatdown at Yankee Stadium on May 21.
While Patrick Vieira’s side currently sits second in the Eastern Conference, just two points off the pace set by the Philadelphia Union, NYCFC is still seeking the validation that would come out of a win against the defending Supporters’ Shield champions.
Recent wins against the Seattle Sounders and Union will have NYCFC’s confidence on the rise, but a positive result on Sunday would take the team to new heights. With the East undoubtedly more wide open than the Western Conference, NYCFC has the opportunity to put the rest of the conference on notice in a big spot.
In doing so, they’ll also begin to show progress in another area where they have received heavy indictments dating back to last season. In 10 home matches in 2016, NYCFC has won just two games, while dropping points in the other eight fixtures.
The greater share of focus will be on NYCFC, as the club looks to find its first win against the Red Bulls, but both squads come into Sunday’s meeting unbeaten in eight of their last 10 MLS matches, making for about as even of a matchup as possible. At least on paper.
Goals are what win games, but keeping them out on the defensive end is just as, if not more, important. That’s a struggle that NYCFC has dealt with for much of the season, despite their solid standing in the East. The team’s 31 goals allowed through 17 matches is the most conceded in MLS, and will have to change quickly if they are to find a way past the Red Bulls.
Offensively, Vieira’s group will have to find more consistent ways to get the ball into dangerous areas of the field, which was something they severely struggled to do last month. David Villa, who leads the team and MLS in goals with 11, will be the focal point of the attack, however, it will be the pieces around him that need to step up in order to take some of the load off of the Spaniard’s shoulders.