By Michael Lewis
Front Row Soccer Editor
When we last left the Hudson River Derby last August, not only did New York City FC head coach Patrick Vieira get into a war of words with his Red Bulls counterpart, Jesse Marsch, but he harshly criticized him as well. That was after a 4-1 Red Bulls triumph.
Whether Wednesday afternoon’s Desert Diamond Clash will become as heated, it remains to be seen because it is a preseason game.
Still, it is a clash of rivals with so many questions:
* Will Vieira talk to and/or shake Marsch’s hand?
* What type of lineups will both teams deploy?
* How important is preseason bragging rights to both sides?
We will find out when the game kicks off on the YES Network at 4 p.m. ET.
“It’s a preseason game,” Vieira said. “Of course, playing against the Red Bulls makes it a little more spicy than the friendly games.”
Indeed, it does.
“Whenever we play New York City, there’s a lot of emotion and a lot on the line,” said Marsch, whose team has won five of the first six regular season Hudson Derby encounters over the past two years.
“Against New York City, I know our guys are always up for the match. I know they will be, too.”
Beyond the rivalry, both teams want to get their act together as their respective MLS openers are a little more than two weeks away.
The Red Bulls will play their first competitive match against the Vancouver Whitecaps in the CONCACAF Champions League quarterfinals at Red Bull Arena in the first leg Feb. 22. The second leg is set for March 2.
“It’s the final tune-up so fitness is still important to get us ready,” Red Bulls captain Sacha Kljestan said. “We need a lot of guys to get 90 minutes so we’re 90 minutes fit for Vancouver. It’s been a short preseason, but it’s been a good preseason. I think this will be a good final test, like a rivalry game.”
City defender Shannon Gomez had similar sentiments.
“Playing Red Bulls is always going to be a heated match in certain aspects of the game but in terms of what we can take away from the game it’s just going to be excellent for us to test ourselves,” he said.
Both coaches were more concerned about getting their teams into shape than necessarily win because a preseason victory doesn’t mean a thing in the long run.
“I’m not sure what team they’re going to put on the field because they just had a game in Ecuador,” said Marsch, referring to last week’s 2-2 draw at Emelec. “They’re a good football team. It will be a good test for us to see where we’re at with our different tactical nuances that we’ve tried to put in place this year.”
Ditto for Vieira.
“We know what we want to pick up from the game,” he said. “It’s all about how can we be stronger game after game. How can we get our match fitness better week after week? How can we improve tactically? How the players can get better technically? We are going to be concerned about the way we want to play the game.”