New York Red Bulls 4, NYCFC 1: Stats Zone breaks down another red-hot derby

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The Red Bulls rolled past NYCFC in a match which truly felt like a rivalry. Christian Araos breaks down how it happened.

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HARRISON, N.J. — Bradley Wright-Phillips scored twice, but it was Jesse Marsch and his heel turn which drove the New York Red Bulls to a 4–1 win over New York City FC.

Tactically, Marsch switched wingers Mike Grella and Alex Muyl and it allowed the Red Bulls to pin NYCFC into its own half, forcing turnovers and creating goals. Politically, Marsch’s comments about Mark Geiger’s officiating during the week may have had its own sway. Patrick Vieira called Marsch out for it afterwards for “crying all week,” but Marsch took the high road focusing on the success of his players.

The Red Bulls clinched the season series, but the rivalry once described as inorganic reached its boiling point under the scorching July sun.

Muyl and the Red Bulls overload NYCFC’s right defense

The Red Bulls have largely been unable to integrate their seven homegrown signings into the first team this season but Muyl is becoming an exception. Muyl scored in the Red Bulls’ 7–0 win in May, but his work on both sides of the ball rendered Lloyd Sam expendable. Sam came off the bench for D.C. last night after being traded; Muyl moved to the left and created two of the first three goals.

Muyl’s pressing trapped Ethan White and Frederic Brillant in their own end and led to giveaways or long balls upfield. On Wright-Phillips’ first goal, Muyl forced Brillant to play the long ball instead of the ideal short option. To force the penalty, Muyl applied pressure before forcing Brillant to handle the ball inside the area.

White struggled the entire first half with his passing into midfield or up to Jack Harrison. Each time he was forced to play backwards only invited more Red Bulls towards his side of the field. Before White knew it, Sacha Kljestan and Dax McCarty were swarming him and running off with the ball.

Did Marsch’s comments play a part?

Before the week, Marsch said David Villa benefitted from lenient officiating. Afterwards he said Geiger “was fantastic,” not because he said something to the press. Vieira relentlessly accused Marsch of compromising the referee’s objectivity and said he was convinced that it had an impact on the match. The number of fouls called stayed even throughout the match, but NYCFC ended the match with 10 men and five different players yellow carded.

Vieira was also ejected from the match during the first-half water break for crossing the sideline, though he had been growing increasingly frustrated with Geiger’s officiating and the number of offside called. Vieira said he told Marsch to stop crying about the referees. Marsch said Vieira did not shake his hand afterwards.

“I think you can see that, after his comment, as a football club, we decided not to respond because that isn't the way we want to do things,” Vieira said. “We have the full respect of the referee. We do understand that sometimes [a] decision is really difficult to make from the referee. One day he's for us. One day he's against us. We understand it, and we respect it, and some people don't, and they prefer to cry openly, and it's good because it went for them this time.”

McNamara’s goal comes from a fleeting moment

Before the coaches snatched the attention, the story of this rivalry had been the extreme successes and failures both teams have when playing the other. When NYCFC beat the Red Bulls three weeks ago, it carved the Red Bulls open with play from the back. In the Red Bulls’ two wins, they’ve been able to force turnovers and find openings in transition.

Both of these teams execute their gameplans well, which is why they both look to be playoff-bound and why the third meeting was the most open of the series. Seconds after the Red Bulls went three goals ahead on the back of their high press, NYCFC answered through Thomas McNamara’s rocket. The goal came from quick, side-to-side passing and a bold decision from McNamara to take the shot.

Although both these teams execute their gameplans well, history shows the Red Bulls have executed theirs better against NYCFC. Under Marsch, the Red Bulls refined their hyper-competitive and scrappy attitude into a refined pressing team. But in Derbies, it’s always good to remember who you are.

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