Soccer in New York has confused just about everyone this year. As with every sport’s team in the Big Apple under intense pressure at all time, New York’s soccer teams have been no exception. For the first time, the city that never sleeps has two MLS teams. The two have spent all season competing for dominance of New York in a battle of red versus blue.
In just their first ever season, New York City FC entered with lofty expectations. Signing Spanish striker David Villa offered a lot of promise and certainly brought some excitement to the club. The signing of Frank Lampard shortly after that pushed fans’ expectations even higher than most would have thought for a first year club. US international Mix Diskerud brought even more press to the expansion team, as did youngster Patrick Mullins arriving from New England.
NYC got off to a decent start to the season. They seemed like they might just meet those expectations after a solid start but then the wheels fell off. New York failed to win in 11 straight matches, including seven losses. They started winning games again at the beginning of June and climbed out of the Eastern Conference basement. Andrea Pirlo arrived from Juventus on a transfer and Lampard finally started playing for NYC. However, they have only climbed to the outskirts of the playoff picture. They are even with Montreal on total points but have played five fewer matches than the Impact leaving them in a rough position. Overall, City has been fairly disappointing with the star power they field.
On the other hand, cross river rival New York Red Bulls were thought to be down and out this year. There was a changing of the guard as Thierry Henry retired and Jesse Marsch replaced Mike Petke as head coach. Most figured that it would be a year of rebuilding. Instead, New York made some shrewd moves to up their talent level and find themselves in a great position to win the Eastern Conference. Sacha Kljestan, Gonzolo Veron and youngster Matt Miazga have all been great additions to the starting XI this year.
The Red Bulls have marched to the third best point total in the Eastern Conference this year but the best points per game average of any team in the east until this point. Bradley Wright-Phillips, Mike Grella, Lloyd Sam and Kljestan have accounted for the majority of the offense for New York this year, each with at least five goals. That approach differs greatly from the star powered style of NYC. The Red Bulls are a lock for the playoffs at this stage after most expected them to miss the postseason altogether.
So far, these two clubs have met three times. Continuing the trend of surprises, the Red Bulls have beaten NYC in all three of those matches by an aggregate score of 7-2. You would think that City could at least manage a draw in one of those three. This has been the beginning of a new, intense rival in the city of New York. To this point though, New York is definitely red.