Before the completion of the Empire State Building or the Chrysler Building, soccer teams were being formed throughout factories and shipyards in New York City.
Those teams transformed into neighborhood clubs and sporting associations – Brooklyn Field Club, S.C. Eintracht, New York Ukrainians, Brooklyn Italians.
On Sunday, another chapter in New York City soccer history will be penned.
New York City FC welcome the Red Bulls across the river as the two rivals meet for the first time ever in the Big Apple. Kickoff is 5 p.m. EDT from Yankee Stadium (ESPN, 970 AM, WQBU).
“It’s not personal, but we want to win,” captain David Villa said. “There’s an in-city rivalry and of course, we're going to fight for the three points. Ultimately, we want our fans to be proud of being New York City fans and it's clear if we have a good game, we'll be able to get those three points."
“Obviously playing for the first time in front of our home fans against the Red Bulls will be an important match for the two clubs and we’re looking forward to it,” said defender Jason Hernandez, who was born in New York City and raised in New Jersey. “They got the best of us the first time around so we’re looking forward to having them on our grounds on Sunday.”
The teams met for the first time ever on May 10 at Red Bull Arena in Harrison, N.J. The home team bested the visitors 2-1 on that night on a brace from forward Bradley Wright-Phillips.
The Red Bulls came into that match on the heels of their first loss of the season, while New York City FC entered on a seven-match winless streak.
That was then. Now, New York City FC (4-7-5; 17 points) are undefeated in their last four league matches and have won three straight. The Red Bulls (5-5-5; 20 points) have just one win in their last five matches in MLS.
“In the stretch of games where we didn’t pick up results it was a bit of a learning experience for some individuals and us as a group of how difficult it is to get results on a week in and week out basis,” midfielder Ned Grabavoy said. “The last few weeks we’ve been a team that’s played much better on both sides of the ball for longer stretches of the game instead of smaller moments whether it was 10 or 15 minutes at a time.
“You have to play well for long stretches of games and be mentally tuned in to get results. We’ve done that the last few weeks and I think we’ve seen now what it takes to get results and hopefully that trend continues.”
New York City FC snapped an 11-match winless stretch with a 2-1 victory over the Philadelphia Union on June 6 at PPL Park. The Club beat the Montreal Impact 3-1 at Yankee Stadium a week later, then left BMO Field with a 2-0 victory over Toronto FC on June 20.
“We’re training hard every day and going out and battling hard every weekend,” Hernandez said. “I just think over time when you continue to do good things and put in the work, good things will happen.”
While the league’s newest franchise became one of the hottest clubs since Memorial Day, the Red Bulls were reeling. Following their victory over their neighbors on May 10, the Red Bulls dropped four consecutive matches in the league, being outscored 10-4.
The Red Bulls halted their skid with a 1-0 midweek victory over nine-man Real Salt Lake on Wednesday evening.
In typical rivalry fashion, the records can be thrown out the window. What was in the past was in the past.
The only thing that matters is from the first whistle to the final whistle some 90 minutes later on the field at Yankee Stadium on Sunday night.