Bradley Wright-Phillips fired 10-man New York Red Bulls to a 2-1 victory over New York City FC in the first New York derby.
This pulsating match between the Red Bulls and expansion side NYCFC fulfilled all of the hopes pinned to it. Wright-Phillips opened the scoring after just four minutes during a rampant Red Bulls star, but Matt Miazga’s second booking provided encouragement for the visitors. It lasted only a few minutes as Wright-Phillips completed a swashbuckling counter to grab the second shortly after the interval to seemingly place the Red Bulls on course.
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NYCFC continued to press nevertheless and sliced the deficit in half through second-half substitute Patrick Mullins to arrange a thrilling finish. Both teams pushed and pushed in the late stages, but the Red Bulls eventually saw the game out to secure bragging rights in the initial match between the teams.
"I think this one is special because it is new," Wright-Phillips said. "Both teams are trying to get off to the best start. And we’ve done it. I’m just happy we won it. We can let history tell the story in the future. For me, it’s not about that. We got three points and we won (the first one) for our fans. I’m just delighted."
All of the anticipation and all of the energy inside Red Bull Arena in the buildup to this match coursed through the home side from the opening whistle. Lloyd Sam marauded up the right flank and thrived with the space and the time afforded to him in the early minutes. He proved an evident threat with a couple of early forays and subsequently punished NYCFC for failing to adjust to his endeavor.
Sam glided past R.J. Allen on the right and reached the byline. He picked up his head and served an enticing ball back toward the top of the goal area. Wright-Phillips arrived at the perfect time to turn home from close range and spark a furious celebration from the home supporters.
The opening goal punctuated a nervy opening period for NYCFC as the Red Bulls threatened to sweep the expansion team out of the stadium. The killer second did not arrive during that early flurry and left NYCFC to regroup and move toward stable ground.
NYCFC located more time and space in possession, but the willingness to play over the top toward Khiry Shelton proved the most fruitful line of inquiry. Shelton prompted Miazga to halt his run with a last-ditch tackle to procure a booking inside the opening 20 minutes. The intervention ultimately reaped dividends for NYCFC as the match hurtled toward halftime.
Shelton found himself in space with the game stretched and surged through midfield on the counter with David Villa at his side. Miazga attempted to recover in a bid to halt the break, but he bundled Shelton over instead. Referee Alan Kelly made the inevitable decision to show the U.S. under-20 center back a second booking and reduce the Red Bulls to 10 men.
Red Bulls coach Jesse Marsch inserted Karl Ouimette into the heart of defense and watched his players keep their shape until the break. Their resolve laid the foundation for Wright-Phillips’ critical second right early in the second half to punish NYCFC for chasing the game imprudently.
Sam once again functioned as the protagonist on the break with a sumptuous diagonal into space for Kljestan on the left. Kljestan collected, picked up his head and saw Wright-Phillips storming through the penalty area unmarked. Wright-Phillips coolly tucked the resulting cross past Saunders to double the Red Bulls’ advantage.
"Every goal is big in every game, but I think the timing of both goals (for us) was vital," Marsch said.
By that point, the Red Bulls grasped full advantage of the space afforded on the counter and threatened to place the result beyond doubt. Wright-Phillips cost his team dearly with a bout of selfishness in search of his hat trick. His decision to shoot at Saunders instead of square to a teammate looking at a gaping goal spurred NYCFC to persist in a game that looked lost.
NYCFC coach Jason Kreis pulled off Mix Diskerud and Villa to alter the calculus and watched Mullins and Kwadwo Poku reward his faith with their roles in NYCFC’s first derby goal. Poku participated deftly in the buildup to present Allen with an opportunity to cross from the left. Allen delivered an enticing ball to the back post for Mullins to poke home from close range to set up a grandstand finish.
Both teams pursued matters wholeheartedly in the final quarter of an hour with all of the blood and thunder in this nascent rivalry rising to the fore. The game brimmed with life as the two sides attempted to tip the balance in their favor.
All of those efforts did not change the score in the end as the Red Bulls clung to their victory and NYCFC fell just short in their improbably comeback bid. But those moments offer hope for the future as these two sides adjust to their places in the world and grapple with the terms of their nascent rivalry.