|photo by Matt Kremkau
HARRISON, NJ - One defensive miscue by the hosts was it needed to separate the two sides as Valentin Castellanos' gave New York City FC beat their cross-river rivals, 1-0.
From the outset, these two sides have one thing in common, they don't like each other very much. And this match was no exception in the twentieth edition of the Hudson River Derby on a sultry overcast Sunday evening at Red Bull Arena.
Straight from kickoff, NYCFC's tactical philosophy of playing out from the back had the team pinned in their defensive end of the pitch. And the Red Bulls tried to take full advantage, but like it has been the case this season, could not find the answer in the final third.
In the 29th minute, NYCFC winger Talles Mangno dribbed his way through the New York defense, found an opening, and took a shot from 25 yards out, but his chance whistled wide to his right, missing the post by inches.
Both teams would trade chances down the stretch, but neither would give an inch as the half came to a close.
It was more of the same as the second half began, with midfielder Lewis Morgan winning the ball, and then letting loose a blistering shot that was easily saved by Johnson, but the ball bounced right back over Morgan, and his second attempt was saved by Johnson once again.
City responded by nearly ending the stalemate in spectacular style, as forward Valentin Castellanos' bicycle kick shot inside the box, but his shot was easily saved by Coronel.
But the stalemate would finally be broken in the 69th minute. NYCFC took advantage of the Red Bulls defenders giving to much space for the City attackers to operate. Something they didn't do in the first half.
Even worse, they were caught ball-watching as Santiago Rodriguez floated a brilliant pass across the field over to Castellanos. He naturally did the rest, putting the visitors in the lead, 1-0. Stunning the home side's supporters into relative silence.
Two weeks prior, NYCFC defender Maxine Chanot complained about how the officiating felt one-sided during the U.S. Open Cup quarterfinal. But in the second half of this match, the calls from the officials would go in the opposite direction as referee Chris Penso seemed to catch every player with a red kit on with an infraction. With some of his calls are questionable at best.
When the final whistle was blown, it would be New York City FC and their supporters with the happy trip back to the Five Boroughs with all three points, leaving the crestfallen Red Bulls lamenting those missed opportunities, and making one key mistake, against a team with quality offensive players.
THE BIG PICTURE:
NYCFC's game plan of sitting back, absorbing the initial pressure from the Red Bulls, and then hitting back on the counter was a tactical masterstroke by coach Nick Cushing, who learned from his defeat from the Open Cup Semifinals last month at the same venue.
While the Red Bulls were fruitlessly trying to score, they could not sustain the attack once they had the ball. Plain and simple, the threats were neutralized by not having enough numbers up front. Magnifying the issue is the Red Bulls beginning bthe march without the services of a reliable striker, one that would even the playing field, or perhaps tilting it in their favor.
As the end of the summer transfer window draws ever closer, questions among the Red Bulls supporters wondering if such offensive reinforcements will arrive and soon?