New York City FC overtakes rival New York Red Bulls in the table with a 2-1 victory in the Hudson River Derby

  • The hosts took an early lead and stayed there after a late equalizer in the first half
  • It means NYCFC has now jumped ship to RBNY and is one of the most popular teams in MLS
  • provides all the latest international sports news

Across the street from Citi Field, within a few years there will be a brand new stadium, adjacent to the home of baseball’s New York Mets. It will be a state-of-the-art facility enough to fill thousands of fans as New York City’s first soccer-specific venue.

But that’s still a while away. Before tonight, they played this game for the first time in Queens – where grass is laid on the Mets’ dirt infields and corners are taken on grass laid down on the warning track in the outfield.

Yes, this is the character of the Hudson River Derby. New York City FC will soon host their hated rivals across the rivers, the New York Red Bulls, in a stadium of their own. But for years they have been going to the city’s two baseball parks to play their games.

Not that the host team cared about the playing conditions. With Emil Forsberg starting on the bench for the New York Red Bulls, they were unable to string passes together and battled uphill early – with Forsberg’s late substitution not being enough to overcome a 2–1 deficit against NYCFC vanquish.

It’s a remarkable turnaround for City, who started the season losing four of their first five and have now won six of their last seven, making them the most popular side in Major League Soccer.

New York City FC earned a crucial win in the Hudson River Derby, beating rivals RBNY 2-1

Austrian winger Hannes Wolf's (17) patience in the penalty area paid off early for New York City FC

Austrian winger Hannes Wolf’s (17) patience in the penalty area paid off early for New York City FC

Almost immediately the Red Bulls took a back seat. Youngster Malachi Jones broke off the wing and threw a ball into Hannes Wolf. The former Borussia Mönchengladbach winger showed excellent patience as he hesitated not once, but twice before taking the lead within three minutes.

Early attempts to level the score did not yield a positive result for the visitors from New Jersey. An attempt by striker Dante Vanzeir to cut the ball back was unsuccessful and was followed by a shot off the woodwork from Scottish striker Lewis Morgan.

While the match was physical, it never really evolved into the trademark nastiness or fisticuffs of a derby. This match has seen plenty in the past, but tonight that energy was absent. It emerged shortly after RBNY’s Elias Manoel crashed into NYCFC’s Matt Freese, but it quickly disappeared.

It seemed like the Pigeons were destined to enter the half with the lead. Cameron Harper had other plans as he unleashed a 25-yard strike that leveled the score in stoppage time. The young penguin slid on his stomach in the rain as the Red Bulls took the momentum into the locker room.

“I said to them at halftime, ‘I don’t want to see anyone disappointed because it’s 1-1,’” NYCFC coach Nick Cushing told reporters after the match. ‘We played very, very well. If we play like this in the second half, we will win the football match.’

Cameron Harper's wonder strike leveled the score for the visitors just before half-time

Cameron Harper’s wonder strike leveled the score for the visitors just before half-time

It was not until minute 65 that Cushing’s prediction came true. NYCFC continued to press down the flanks, with Wolf eventually playing the penultimate ball to Tayvon Gray, who crossed the ball for the ball to be tapped in by substitute Mounsef Bakrar’s foot for a 2-1 City lead.

All this time, the Red Bulls’ greatest weapon had not yet been deployed. Forsberg, the recent signing of RB Leipzig, was not considered fit enough for 90 minutes. With RBNY their most dynamic player until the 69th minute, their attacks always felt like they were missing something.

The best Forsberg had to offer that night was a threatening through ball to Manoel, but as the Brazilian tried to weave his way through the defense he found himself at a dead end.

RBNY no longer had an effective chance. They tried pinging balls over the top, but nothing worked. As time passed, the challenges came with more force. Red Bulls captain Sean Nealis was sent off and the book on the match was closed shortly afterwards.

The top two teams in New York could very well see each other again in the MLS Cup Playoffs. Who knows what kind of animosity or momentum will build between now and then if the city continues to split between red and blue.