New York City FC are on the road this weekend as they face Red Bulls at Red Bull Arena.
Hi Tom, thanks so much for speaking with us. How long have you been covering soccer?
I've loved the game forever, played (and still play) it forever, and got into writing in high school, so basically since then. I got really serious about it in college and began doing freelance stuff before I graduated. With some confluence of (very) good luck and hard work, I landed my current gig at MLSsoccer dot com covering the league on a national level for the last three years, most of which as an "MLS Insider".
What’s been your favorite moment covering soccer?
As far as covering it, some of my first milestones on location at events. My first MLS All-Star Game (2019 in Orlando) was cool, and my first MLS Cup (2019 in Seattle) is probably my favorite to date. First scoops, first big interviews all figure into that power ranking as well.
What do you think makes the Hudson River Derby such a feisty rivalry?
Proximity is truly the starting point. It'd just be weird if these two teams who share geography (and the "New York" moniker) were ambivalent towards one another, right? Imagine if this was just another game and the players looked forward to it because it's their shortest trip of the season?
But proximity alone doesn't make these things stick. There's been some wonderful on-field moments, both in competition and intensity, that have given it life. The fans are the driving force behind all "rivalries" and they don't disappoint around this fixture. Even with a bunch of turnover from both sides in key players, coaches and whatnot over recent memory — which makes it difficult for true rivalry heroes/villains to take root like the early days — the game still has that juice.
The Red Bulls beat Inter Miami last time out, why do you think their form has improved of late?
I don't want to sound overly simplistic nor dismissive, but the schedule has certainly played a part. Three of their last four wins have come against Inter Miami (twice) and FC Cincinnati. The results against NYCFC are credible, though a cynic may be quick to point out NYCFC's less-than-stellar form. Regardless, they didn't pick their schedule here, and beating bad teams is better than not beating bad teams. They have put themselves in a position where a win against NYCFC would bring the two rivals level on points, which seemed positively unfathomable six weeks ago.
So not to cop out with schedule talk— they are doing what they do best, better than their summer swoon. They care less about completing passes than creating 50/50s and duels. That's the game model for a dial-it-up-to-11 high press. It's relentless and if you are 5% off your mark, and 50/50s become 60/40s, you're going to lose. They've done much better at that in recent wins. Formidable output from strike partners Patryk Klimala and Fabio, and the re-emergence of Omir Fernandez, have helped turn those improved performances into tangible results.
What have you made of the two previous encounters this season?
In a word: Chaotic.
Red cards! A 90+12 minute equalizer! Genuine animosity! Lively post-match press conference quotes! Sounds like a derby to me!
If you were to identify the Red Bulls' dangerman on Sunday, who would that be?
I know you asked me dangerman not dangermen but Klimala and Fabio always have my attention when watching the Red Bulls. They've been better lately, but it always feels like there's another level this partnership can hit. Klimala is a DP, Fabio is really intelligent and underappreciated for his all-around game just because he doesn't have double-digit goals.
Do you have a prediction for Sunday's game?
The prediction game is foolish and my penchant for a mustache and silly button-up shirts makes me look enough of a fool that I don't need to hang up prime content for the very amusing Twitter account MLS Images That Precede Unfortunate Events (@ImagesMLS). I'm going to respectfully decline, my good sir.