New York City Football Club claimed a superb 2-0 win over Red Bulls in the Hudson River Derby on Saturday.
Here are Five Points from another memorable game at Yankee Stadium…
There was plenty at stake as City and Red Bulls locked horns for the 21st time in MLS history – not only are the two sides vying for position in the Eastern Conference Playoff spots but there was of course the not-so-small matter of local pride on the line.
The Boys in Blue held the bragging rights going into the game, having triumphed on Red Bull turf back in July, and were seeking to secure the season series in MLS against our rivals for the first time.
As Sean Johnson remarked after to the YES Network, "We've got warriors in the team."
Nick Cushing’s side would edge our rivals not only in terms of the result but in possession (55.6%), passes (443 / 346) and passing accuracy (71.8% / 65.3%) – and even though the visitors registered more shots, the home side clocked more efforts on target, ultimately making two of our three chances count!
As was the case on Wednesday night in the Campeones Cup, NYCFC struck an early goal to take the lead – only this one was even quicker!
Alex Callens’ second goal in as many games was netted after just 50 seconds – the fastest goal ever scored in a Hudson River Derby.
The strike put City immediately on the front foot, setting the tone for the game and settling any nerves, while delighting our already-buoyant, 30,151-strong home crowd to crank up the noise!
Santiago Rodríguez’s effort midway through the first half to double the advantage and put the Boys in Blue in dreamland, and having won 11 of the 13 MLS games in which we'd led, the MLS Cup Champions never really looked like relinquishing that lead with an excellent defensive display.
Three of City's last four goals have come as a result of set-pieces: the Campeones Cup opener the result of a free-kick, and the two Hudson River Derby goals from corners.
Not only that but with a variety of players having found their scoring touch – the Defenders and Midfielders chipping in – the squad are rekindling their scoring touch at a crucial time of the season.
Given goals had proven hard to come by in previous games, the set-piece threat adds another string to the bow in what could be a useful piece of the armory in the Playoff push.
Speaking after the game, Interim Head Coach Cushing was full of praise for three fan favorites: goalscorers Callens and Rodríguez, and Maxi Moralez.
Callens, who also opened the scoring in Wednesday night’s Campeones Cup Final, has had a major impact on City’s recent upturn in fortunes, contributing at both ends of the pitch – producing a pivotal goalline clearance against Red Bulls at 1-0!
It was a Man of the Match display from the Peruvian, who Cushing hailed as ‘the best central defender in the MLS’. It’s hard to disagree when you consider his influence: his exit from the Columbus game marking the start of a challenging run of results.
Meanwhile, Rodríguez was highlighted for his ‘masterclass’ of a performance, tallying a goal and an assist, and Moralez was dubbed a ‘legend’ of the Club for his remarkable efforts in guiding the team both on and off the pitch.
A second successive clean sheet marked further cause for celebration – Sean Johnson’s 14th shutout of the season and that most in the league – with the Boys in Blue tightening things up at the perfect time.
With a welcome rest now after a hectic schedule, and more faces set to return after the international break, the players will be fresh and eager to pick up where they left off come October.
Future Is Bright
Another pleasing aspect of the Derby win was the involvement of some of our younger stars, including New Jersey-born Kevin O’Toole, who made his first appearance and start of the MLS regular season.
After impressing against Atlas F.C., O’Toole took his chance to shine. Employed in a winger role, he produced another composed display on the big stage, winning both of the corners which resulted in the two goals.
“He’s like a guy that we found out of the crowd and just put in the team!” Cushing laughed. “People who know about College Soccer will look at him at Princeton. He was a good player, he won awards and went in the Draft.
“We were really proud and happy to get him. We see his quality. I look at myself and I’m a little bit frustrated I didn’t put him in earlier because he always trained well, he has great offensive quality, he’s technical, he’s one of the fittest guys in the team… He could play again now – he’d be fine for another 90 minutes!
“It’s a really good example of the power of the Draft. There are some really good football players in College and as coaches and Football Clubs, we have to find these players and give them opportunities.
“Though he’s a young player with inexperience, he’s shown now in two performances that he is at this level. Now, for him, it’s about: 'Can he sustain the performance? Can he improve? Can he go to the next level?' I’m confident he will because of the way he applies himself.”
With New York natives Tayvon Gray and Justin Haak also featuring again at Yankee Stadium, the future is bright for the Boys in Blue.