Patrick Vieira said he had “massive respect for Jesse for what he is doing with the Red Bulls. He has been doing a fantastic job since he got the job. ” (FrontRowSoccer.com Photo)

By Michael Lewis

FrontRowSoccer.com Editor

NEW YORK — Assuming Jesse Marsch returns from Poland and his UEFA Coaching License Course in time for the game, Saturday will mark the first time he and New York City FC head coach Patrick Vieira will match coaching wits in a Hudson River Derby since last year’s blow-up between the two coaches.

That’s when Vieira claimed that Marsch was “crying” about the officiating prior to the confrontation, setting up the referee to make calls toward the Red Bulls.

During MLS Rivalry Week media day at Major League Soccer headquarters in Manhattan Tuesday afternoon, Vieira took an entirely different tact for the match at Red Bull Arena.

“It was Jesse’s fault,” he said. “I can say what I want. He is not here.”

The assembled media laughed and then the 1998 French World Cup champion got serious.

“No, no, no, no. I think that is part of the game. This is part of the rivalry between two clubs, two coaches, two football clubs, two teams. And I’m sure you guys love it as well because this is what makes it exciting.”

When the teams met in last Wednesday’s Lamar Hunt/U.S. Open Cup at RBA, Marsch could not coach the Red Bulls or sit on the team bench because he was forced to serve a suspension incurred when he was ejected from an Open Cup loss last July.

Vieira said that he had “massive respect for Jesse for what he is doing with the Red Bulls. He has been doing a fantastic job since he got the job.

“Of course, there is tension because both of us want to win game. But I have big respect for him.”

When the two teams tussled at RBA last July 29 — a 4-1 Red Bulls win — there was so much tension you could have built a bridge with it to cross the Hudson River from New Jersey to New York.

In the first real feud of the Hudson River Derby, Vieira claimed that Marsch’s comments set up referee Mark Geiger to call the third and final match of the derby in the hosts’ favor at RBA.

Earlier that week, Marsch told reporters that he felt his team hadn’t fared well with game officials that season.

“The frustration that we have with the referees, the way we feel we don’t get the benefit of the doubt,” he said last July, adding that his team has received only “one penalty call all year. That frustration continues to mount; the frustration we have on the referees.

“We have an honest team … that gets punished for calls, plays and penalties across the board and we hardly ever get rewarded.

“Hoping that we get a ref who understands how to ref the game this weekend.”

Not surprisingly, Marsch was fined an undisclosed amount from the league.

After the game, Vieira claimed that Marsch was “crying” about the officiating, setting up Geiger to make calls toward the Red Bulls.

“When you put in a question mark on the referee’s credibility before it begins, that can have an impact, and I think you will agree it had an impact on the referee’s performance today,” he said. “And I feel sorry because we came here to play a good game and to play a Derby game, and Derby game sometimes, yes, the tackle is late, but I don’t think the referee — the referee, I believe, got influenced by the comment during the week.”

Vieira never got an opportunity to see the entire game as he was dismissed from the sidelines by Geiger during a water break in the 34th minute after he stepped outside of the coaching box.

On the way to the tunnel, Vieira had a verbal confrontation with Marsch on the field.

“The conversation to Jesse was just to stop crying and stop complaining,” he said. “I think his team was playing well, playing really good. but it was quite really frustrating and I feel sorry for him.”

Vieira claimed that Marsch had this planned for a while.

“This is a plan,” he said. “This is a way, I think, he wanted to go for, and he get fined for it. So that means he did some things wrong. You wanted to accept it or not, but that had an impact on the referee’s decision, as simple as that.”

The NYCFC coach said that he and Marsch are two different people with different philosophies.

“We are completely different as a person and as a character because he is acting one way, I’m acting a different way,” he said. “But I think this is part of the derby. He wants to win, I want to win, and sometimes there’s tension. There [are] two different clubs acting in a different way, and this is a part of the derby.

“But, of course, you can see that, after his comment, as a football club, we decided not to respond because that isn’t the way we want to do things. We have the full respect of the referee. We do understand that sometimes decision is really difficult to make from the referee. One day he’s for us. One day he’s against us. We understand it, and we respect it, and some people don’t, and they prefer to cry openly, and it’s good because it went for them this time.”

Prior to kickoff Saturday, it will be intersting to see if both coaches have put this controversy behind them or that one or both will continue it.