NYCFC won the 2017 Hudson River Derby series for the first time in club history with a game to spare on Sunday night.
From a game that was loaded with talking points, here are five things we learned from a dramatic 3-2 victory over Red Bulls…
We were up, we were down and then we were up. For good.
The ninth rendition of the Hudson River Derby was undoubtedly the most thrilling to date as cross-river rivals traded five goals in a breathless, edge-of-the-seat test of mettle which NYCFC passed with flying colors.
Red Bulls arrived at Yankee Stadium off the back of four consecutive wins and in their best form of the season, making this a closer match than our 2-0 win in Harrison in June.
2-1 down with 20 minutes to play, it looked bleak for Patrick Vieira’s men but, not for the first time this season, the Boys in Blue rallied to turn a deficit into an advantage by rolling up their sleeves and refusing to be defeated.
Following on from the 4-0 loss at Toronto, the grit on display from the home team was truly inspiring and three points certainly give the team a solid platform to build from for the remaining 11 games of the Regular Season.
No more words can be written about this Derby win without mentioning the man who scored all three of NYCFC’s goals, David Villa.
In the last two games at Yankee Stadium, El Guaje has produced arguably his two best performances for the club ever.
Against Chicago, Villa set the tone on both sides of the ball for an NYC side which was down a man for 80 minutes and he did it again on Sunday night, while demonstrating his assassin’s steel in front of goal.
It was a game which pitted two of the league’s best strikers against one another and both showed up for their teams but David edged it with his first-ever hat-trick for the club to secure the points.
Age has taken nothing away from the 35-year old and the talk after the game concerned whether David should be recalled to the Spain National Team, whether he’s the most dominant NYC sportsperson currently in play and whether he is Major League Soccer’s best-ever player.
Admittedly, we’re biased but, on this evidence, it’s hard to make a case against any of those three points.
NYCFC have now won three of the last four Hudson River Derby matches in MLS, improving the all-time head-to-head to 3-5-0.
Considering it was 0-4-0 in May 2016, you can see that the tide seems to be turning in our favor and that, if there ever was a psychological issue with facing our cross-river rivals, there’s no trace of it now.
With the teams meeting again in two weeks at Red Bull Arena, NYCFC have a chance to make it a series whitewash which would go a long way towards eradicating those bad memories from past meetings with Red Bulls forever.
READ: NYCFC 3-2 Red Bulls – Match Recap
Versatility is Key
In these two wins against Red Bulls and in the victory against Atlanta earlier this season, Vieira showed that he can employ more than one gameplan to achieve results.
For all the talk of short passing, playing out from the back and boa-constrictor-like possession play that swirls around the team, NYCFC can be pragmatic and can alter their method of attack when teams press them high.
That was evident in this latest win, as the Boys in Blue opted on a number of occasions to go long to bypass the forward-most fleet of Red Bulls “defenders”.
For this to work, the accuracy of these longer passes has to be on point, otherwise you invite pressure by giving the ball away to your opponents and tire yourselves out in the trying to win it back.
Fortunately, we possess excellent soccer players in defensive positions and so were able to break the press time and again, freeing our forwards and forcing opportunities with Red Bulls caught up the field.
Vieira’s substitutions were also perfectly timed and helped to turn the tide at 1-2, overwhelming a creaking visiting defense with the pace and power Ugo Okoli and Khiry Shelton brought onto the field with them.
Vieira’s message to the players after the game was to enjoy the result until they return to work on Tuesday morning.
The Frenchman knows that winning the series against Red Bulls is an important building block in the growth of this still-young club but he feels as though the ruthless consistency of a great team is still missing.
There’s no question of resilience – all season long, NYCFC have followed up disappointing results with big performances in their next games but now Patrick wants to string these tentpole wins together, building momentum and not letting focus slip, starting in LA next weekend.