Riding a franchise-best five-match unbeaten streak, New York City FC hosts the New York Red Bulls at Yankee Stadium Saturday at 3 p.m. in the first of three New York derby matches (Broadcast: FOX | WFAN | WQBU | International).
It is the third game of a brutal six-day stretch for NYCFC, which won in Portland last Sunday and tied Toronto FC on the road.
NYCFC (4-3-5) finds itself atop the Eastern Conference standings with 17 points from 12 matches, one point in front of the Montreal Impact.
Meanwhile, the Red Bulls (4-7-1) are currently in fifth place with 13 points from 12 matches and are one of three teams to compile one or fewer points on the road this season.
“It is always good to be first, but we remember three weeks ago we were at the bottom,” NYCFC coach Patrick Vieira said. “That just shows how tight the league is, but I’m really pleased because we had two games away from home and we managed to bring four points. That’s good for us.”
Although there have only been three meetings between the teams a year ago, it is already considered one of the best rivalries in MLS. It was something that caught Vieira by surprise when he attended the match at Yankee Stadium a year ago.
“The atmosphere in Yankee Stadium was fantastic,” Vieira said. “We played Portland a few days and the atmosphere was really good, we went to Toronto as well. So, the sport is growing up in the country and more kids will be playing and more people will be following and we will have more people at the stadium. It’s just a question of time.”
In the first encounter at a sold-out Red Bull Arena last May, Patrick Mullins scored in a 2-1 defeat. The scene shifted to Yankee Stadium where more than 48,000 fans saw Tommy McNamara score the fastest goal in club history, putting NYCFC in front, 1-0, but Bradley Wright-Phillips scored twice to lift the Red Bulls to another 2-1 victory.
In the final meeting a year ago, David Villa, Frank Lampard and Andrea Pirlo were in the starting XI together for the first time, but NYCFC fell, 2-0.
The teams meet again July 3 at Yankee Stadium before the third, and final, meeting July 24 at Red Bull Arena.
“We’re going to prepare this game the same way we prepare the other ones,” Vieira said. “We’re going to go on the field with the same kind of ambition, to control, to dictate the game. We have a lot of respect for the Red Bulls because last year they did really well. We respect the players, they are a really good side and it will be a really difficult game because of course there is a rivalry between the two teams, it will be a difficult game because the quality of the players, but we will give our best."