Daniel Royer: “It’s definitely always nice to win over a city rival.” (Noah K. Murrau/USA TODAY Sports)
By Christian Arnold
HARRISON, N.J. – A new chapter of the Red Bulls-New York City FC was written Wednesday Night, with Red Bulls midfielder Daniel Royer taking center stage.
It was Royers’ goal in the 67th minute that snapped a scoreless deadlock and propelled the home side to a 1-0 win and a trip to the round of 16 in the Lamar Hunt/U.S. Open Cup tournament. The goal was almost a gift from the soccer gods after the Red Bulls pressured the visitors from across the Hudson River for much of the second half.
Finally, the Red Bulls broke through when Bradley Wright-Phillips drew NYCFC keeper Sean Johnson out of the net on a shot. The ensuing rebound went into the air, allowing Royer to position himself under it, and volleyed the ball into the back of the net.
“I was just trying to be in the right spot to be an option for [Wright-Phillips] to pass,” Royer said. “But he was in a good spot to take the finish on his own. Then after the ball got deflected the ball was in the air. I just tried to have a good touch to put it in and I’m happy that it happened.”
Royer’s goal helped the Red Bulls continue their domination over NYCFC, and secured his side’s first win over City in the Open Cup. Up until this season the Red Bulls and NYCFC had yet to face one another in the 104-year-old tournament.
“It’s definitely always nice to win over a city rival,” Royer said. “I think that’s what we were looking forward to and also our fans. … It means a lot to us, it means a lot to the city and to the fans and to everybody. It was definitely a great feeling for me to score and definitely a great feeling for the whole team to win today.”
There have certainly been some memorable, as well as ugly moments, in the rivalry. The Red Bulls didn’t blow out NYCFC, 7-0, like they did on May 21, 2016 at Yankee Stadium, despite Red Bulls supporters’ chants of “we want seven.” And there was no icy exchange between NYCFC coach Patrick Vieira and Red Bulls coach Jesse Marsch.
Marsch was suspended from the Open Cup match due to an ejection from last year’s tournament, so assistant coach Chris Armas stepped in on Wednesday. And Armas knew after the game that the Red Bulls latest win over NYCFC added another layer to the rivalry.
“There’s no way escaping that. We’re red, they’re blue,” he said. “It’s been tremendous for our league and for New York and New Jersey, our area, for any soccer fan.
“I mean, look, typically first round, you wouldn’t see energy like that. Their fans, our fans. Listen, we love that we get to host the game, play in front of our fans. We typically are very good, come out on top.
“Again, the more games we play, the bigger the rivalry grows.”
While the announced crowd of 11,311 at Red Bull Arena on Wednesday paled in comparison to previous Red Bulls-NYCFC matchups the energy was certainly there. The game had Its chippy moments both on and off the field. And rivaling supporters traded barbs with one another over the course of the evening.
Wednesday’s match was an appetizer for their league showdown in 10 days back at Red Bull arena, but Armas is hoping it was also a jumping off point for a Red Bulls squad that has had its inconsistencies during the course of the MLS campaign.
“Sometimes there’s defining moments in a season, certain games that help you get kick-started,” Armas said. “We’re hoping that is one of them. Tonight in the game we know what they’re trying to do, they know what we’re trying to do. I think we took that personal a little bit to say, how good can we be? It’s our way, you know, our way.
“Could this propel us forward? Listen, our group really hasn’t wavered that much. The way they show up every day, compete, train, look after each other. The spirit has been good.”
For the players, they’re hoping it’s the start to a deep run in the Open Cup.
“It’s good. We want to take this competition seriously,” Wright-Phillips said. “It’s a chance for silverware and the Red Bulls haven’t often got much to show. We’re taking this very seriously.”