Here. We. Go.
It’s Rivalry Week in MLS as we head over the river to New Jersey to take on Red Bulls.
Here, Managing Editor Mark Booth picks out some of the key storylines to follow on Saturday afternoon…
Yangel’s First Derby
Red Bulls ended NYCFC’s US Open Cup campaign at Red Bull Arena ten days before this first MLS meeting of the season.
That continued Red Bulls’ dominance of this series but it could be a very different encounter this time around, especially when you factor in some of the additional resources Head Coach Patrick Vieira can call upon.
For one, Yangel Herrera is back from the U20 World Cup where he starred for Venezuela and he showed just what he can bring to the table in his first appearance back against Seattle.
The teen sensation was in attendance for the US Open Cup defeat and wasn’t able to take part, so he is eager to make his Hudson River Derby debut, telling reporters: “I’ve never been in a derby before, so I’m full of expectations for it.”
NYCFC’s record at Red Bull Arena certainly leaves something to be desired but with the young Venezuelan star who leads his team for duels won per 90 mins (11.4), could the tide turn on Saturday?
Keeping it Tight
Maxime Chanot is another who missed the Open Cup loss at Red Bull Arena and May’s Etihad Player of the Month certainly showed what he can bring to the defense in the Seattle victory.
The Luxembourgian has been a titan at the back for NYCFC so far this season and will relish the physical battle with BWP & company on Saturday.
NYCFC are conceding just 1.3 goals per game in 2017 which is a big improvement on the 1.7 per match we were letting in last year and has been key to our solid start to the season.
Chanot, along with fellow defensive newcomers and the forwards, who share the defensive workload more than ever before, has been a big part of the reason why.
Jack Harrison said that scoring the early goal could be key to winning the game for NYCFC at the Rivalry Week media day at MLS HQ on Tuesday.
In the Open Cup game, NYCFC were unable to capitalize on the golden chances they made in the first half and were punished when Red Bulls scored on one of their only opportunities in the second half.
You don’t get any closer than Tommy McNamara’s double-crossbar hit in the first period but Vieira will be urging his team to be more ruthless in this league meeting so that there’s no hard luck stories this time.
Fans will face an anxious wait for this week’s Injury Report to be filed on these very pages on Friday afternoon.
Ronald Matarrita and Maxi Moralez both missed the victory over Seattle with minor injuries and it remains to be seen whether they will be ready to return on Saturday.
The pair are two of NYCFC’s most consistent performers and so Vieira will be hoping to be able to call upon them for this rivalry match.
That said, the boys in blue were the better team against the reigning MLS Cup champions without the duo last weekend, so the Head Coach knows he has a strong depth chart to pull from should he need it.
RJ’s NJ Return…
Someone who understands what this derby means as much as anyone else on the roster is RJ Allen.
The defender returned to the lineup in our 2-1 victory over Seattle last weekend and turned in his best performance of the season so far.
A New Jersey native, Allen travels back across the river to take on his brother’s club at Red Bull Arena, fresh off the back of a game where he made eight tackles.
That’s the most tackles RJ has made in a single game since he joined NYCFC and he’ll be hoping he did enough to retain his place for this first MLS derby of 2017.