Alex Muyl’s early goal on Saturday could have shaken New York City FC and sparked the New York Red Bulls to another memorable Hudson River Derby victory, but Dome Torrent’s squad didn’t collapse.
No, instead NYCFC turned things up, overwhelming the New York Red Bulls for the better part of 60 minutes in the first and second half to erase its early deficit and secure a vital 2-1 derby victory that not only delivers bragging rights, but also creates a six-point gap between the rivals in the East standings.
The final scoreline didn’t fully reflect how much control NYCFC had in the match. The home side fell behind early when Alex Muyl scored a 10th-minute opener, but that goal came on the only shot on goal the Red Bulls managed in the first 65 minutes of the match.
NYCFC responded by taking control of the match, dominating play in midfield after a tactical adjustment put more personnel in the middle of the field to combat the Red Bulls press and force the Red Bulls into repeated mistakes that sparked dangerous counterattacks.
The result was a match that saw NYCFC register seven shots on goals to the Red Bulls’ two, which doesn’t even include the three shots NYCFC rattled off the post.
That offensive onslaught was driven in part by NYCFC’s work defensively to force the Red Bulls into turnovers that triggered several dangerous counter breaks, and kept the Red Bulls on the back-foot for a large portion of the match.
“I said this week that everybody has to defend, without that it’s impossible to beat the Red Bulls, and they did it, and that is the reason why I’m very happy,” Torrent said after the match. “I thought we deserved to win the game and I’m very happy for everybody because their effort was fantastic.”
Red Bulls coach Chris Armas didn’t consider the match to be lopsided, but rather a close contest decided by NYCFC making “one more play” than the Red Bulls.
“I would say that it is almost in many ways, exactly what we thought it would look like,” Armas said. “Lots of fouls, lots of emotion, lots of intensity. It is unpredictable which way it is going to go. It’s a close hard fought game by both teams, and I am proud of the fight and the way our guys started the game, the way we finished the game.”
The stats don’t support Armas’ interpretation of the match being an even one, and flattered his team’s overall performance, which consisted of a good first 10 minutes, good last 10 minutes, and 70 minutes in between that was largely dominated by NYCFC.
“The last 10 minutes we didn’t play well,” Torrent said. “But other than that, say 60-70 minutes, we played well.”
That lengthy stretch of good play should have resulted in more goals, but Valentin Castellanos and Heber saw shots hit the crossbar in the first half, and Castellanos also struck the woodwork in the second half. Mix in a stunning save by Luis Robles to deny a goal-bound Alexandru Mitrita free kick.
NYCFC’s equalizer eventually came just before halftime, courtesy of a Maxi Moralez penalty, but the goal NYCFC was hunting for in the run of play finally arrived in the 53rd minute when Heber pulled off a clever back-heel finish of an Anton Tinnerholm cross to give the home team a lead it never relinquished.
The Red Bulls did show signs of life later in the match, with new arrival Josh Sims providing a spark, and Daniel Royer forcing a stunning reaction save from NYCFC goalkeeper Sean Johnson in the 66th minute, but the Red Bulls’ late pressure failed to generate another chance, allowing NYCFC to close out the victory, and move six points clear of the Red Bulls for third place in the East.
The victory, NYCFC’s third in a row, comes as a congested schedule looms in September, with three matches in an eight-day span that will coincide with the international break, which means NYCFC could be without several players. That daunting stretch makes the three points NYCFC was able to secure against the Red Bulls on Saturday even more valuable as NYCFC positions itself for a deep playoff run.