A night which required many more than five points (so forgive us if we can squeeze a few bonus ones in…)
Managing Editor Mark Booth picks through the wreckage of the 12th Hudson River Derby…
“In the end we played with 11 v 11 because we had two more in the stands. Our fans were incredible.” - Dome Torrent
The boss was right - this was hairs-on-the-back-of-the-neck stuff from 30+k inside Yankee Stadium, especially in the second half of NYCFC’s latest Hudson River Derby epic.
Whether it was the woodwork, injuries, the Red Bulls goalkeeper or the two red cards shown to men in blue, City were luckless in this encounter but still found a way to grind out a point against the league’s most in-form side thanks in no small part, to the home supporters who only grew louder with each new obstacle placed.
Down a goal and reduced to ten men when Eloi Amagat’s debut came to an abrupt, untimely end, David Villa dragged his team back into the match and from this moment the symbiotic relationship between the team and the fans kicked into overdrive.
There were volleys of noise from the bleachers which seemed to ripple the air and repel wave and wave of Red Bulls’ attacks back which, combined with some stout defending, meant the visitors just couldn’t find a way through the noise despite having two extra players for the final 25 minutes (inc. stoppage-time).
And yet, City had their chances too and you could make a case that they would have been worthy victors thanks to a truly heroic effort from the nine remaining players, who shuttled back and forth, both soaking up pressure and then, thrillingly, swinging counter-punches on the break.
All in all, a rare draw that felt like a win.
13 starts. 10 goals. Don’t let anyone tell you El Guaje isn’t still the finest forward in this league.
For a competitor like David, missing one game is unacceptable, so it’s been a largely frustrating 2018 for the captain who has missed 10 matches but the prospect of Villa in this kind of mood, with time to make up for, is surely an unpleasant one for the rest of the league's defenses.
Even in the 2-0 defeat at Philadelphia, David had the acceleration and stamina over long distance sprints as he shook off the shackles of his recent injuries and trusted his healthy-again knee.
Against Red Bulls, he was the best player on the field.
Reminiscent of his instantly-iconic performance in the 10-man win over Chicago in 2017, David set the tone for an NYCFC side which simply refused to lose on Wednesday night, earning the skipper the Star of the Game award and a richly-deserved standing ovation.
A Harsh Red
Eloi Amagat took to Twitter to apologize to supporters for the red card which reduced NYC to ten in the first half but Ebenezer Ofori was more than a little unlucky to get his marching orders on 73'.
The flash of red drew an audible gasp from those in Yankee Stadium and it took some in the press box a couple of replays to pick out the perceived offense.
If intended, the Ghanaian’s tread on Wright-Phillips’ achilles would have been a serious foul worthy of punishment, but the 23-year old was looking the other way and was in the process of bringing his foot down between the ball and Wright-Phillips' leg to block the path to goal when the collision occurred.
The loss of Ebenezer for the Columbus game on September 1 will also be felt on a team already missing Yangel Herrera in the engine room.
Berget’s Decisive Cameo
As Glenn Crooks pointed out on his radio call, Dome’s switch to a 4-3-2 in the second half following the red card was similar to the approach taken by his predecessor Patrick Vieira in the afore-mentioned Chicago win last year.
This time, bringing on Jo Inge Berget proved to be a masterstoke as the Norwegian was the “out ball” NYCFC needed when counteracting the Red Bulls’ press in those early second half minutes and that’s exactly how the equalizing goal was created.
It was Maxi Moralez with the quick thinking to launch the clipped long ball to Berget who provided a nicely-cushioned back-header into Villa's path.
On a night when NYCFC had no luck at all, another blow came when Jo Inge was forced off shortly after the goal with an injury, just 10 minutes after his introduction – a real shame but Jo Inge definitely played his part in his small time on the field.
We'll Meet Again...?
The final Regular Season meeting of the season but will this be the last time the Hudson River Derby is contested in 2018?
This one had the feeling of an MLS Playoffs encounter, with every duel contested like the Cup was going to be handed over at night’s end and it certainly had that intangible “extra” in the air which hangs over the best sporting rivalries.
You really got the palpable sense that neither team could stand to lose to the other and, with those kind of deep-rooted stakes assumed, could you imagine a post-season series? Ei ei ei...