(photo by Matt Kremkau)
With their tickets to the MLS Cup Playoffs already punched, the New York Red Bulls made the relatively short trip to Yankee Stadium to meet up with New York City FC for the second and final regular-season match of this season's installment of the Hudson River Derby.
The last time these two cross-river rivals met was back on August 20 at Red Bull Arena when at the 59th minute when NYCFC's goalkeeper Sean Johnson failed to keep Kyle Duncan's shot going over the line, where he fell on the ball and tried to push it out.
Originally signaled no goal by the official, it was given after a check by VAR, thus giving the Red Bulls a 1-0 victory. Now the scene shifts to New York City, where playoff seeding along with local bragging rights was on the agenda for both teams in a wet and dreary evening in The Bronx.
A Rivalry Continued, With A Wild First Half
It didn't take very long for the home side to strike first. Off a corner kick that would be well-defended by City, a brilliant ball was delivered by Maximilannos Medina found the head of Valentin Castellanos and bounced it past goalkeeper Ryan Meara for his third goal of the season in the 12th minute.
But the Red Bulls would quickly answer back just six minutes later. Cristian Casseres darted through NYCFC's defense, gets knocked down, but Brian White took the loose ball and then blasted it off the slick surface from long range. Scoring his 4th goal of the season, evening the match 1-1.
The Red Bulls' style of play is based on high press, causing chaos in the defender's end of the pitch. And in the 38th minute, it paid off. Off a freekick, the ball bouncing around free in the box, which found the feer of Brian White who passed it to Cristian Casseres, who then took a shot and benefited from a deflection off Maxime Chanot that floated over Sean Johnson into the back of the net for his second of the season and to give the visitors the lead, 2-1.
However, the lead would not last long. In the 42nd minute, Mixi Moralez delivered a pass that was meant for Castellanos found the feet of Gary Mackay-Steven instead, who darted past the Red Bulls defenders and goalkeeper Meara and would roll the ball right into the empty net to even the match at two goals apiece, and ending a wild 45 minutes of soccer.
NYCFC Takes Control And Takes Command
The goals would continue, and this one was worthy of the highlight reel. Off a bad give away in the Red Bulls' own defensive end by Jason Pendant. Jesus Medina then quickly threw the ball in over to Alexander Ring, and the NYCFC captain stepped up and blasted a rocket of a shot off the crossbar for his 4th of the season to give his home side the lead, 3-2.
The Red Bulls in the hast four games have found a way to either equalize or win matches with goals scored late. Off a corner kick, the ball found its way over to a wide-open Tim Parker. But Parker, in front of the net, shanked his shot off the crossbar to the dismay of the central-defender, realizing just how close he came to evening the match.
And that blown chance would come back to haunt them. For in the 76th minute, As Castellanos struck again, scoring his second of the match and his fourth of the season to put the Cityzens up by two goals.
Tim Parker would then find himself on the wrong side of a penalty call eight minutes later when he fouled Maxi Moralez in the box, and Castellanos converted the penalty kick his fifth of the season to seal the win, awarding his team all three points, and putting the Red Bulls' five-match unbeaten streak to an emphatic end.
The win by NYCFC kept its home playoff game hunt alive, heading into next Sunday's Decision Day match against the Chicago Fire at Soldier Field.
Derby matches such as these are regularly a knife fight for 90 minutes. The Red Bulls did well fighting back after the first goal, but could not hold off City as they were the more determined side to win this match on their home ground. The result would be tough for Carnell and his team to swallow and they will learn from this, but they got a taste of what is to come after they play Toronto FC on Sunday afternoon at Red Bull Arena to end the regular season.