Jack Harrison celebrates his seventh goal of the season. (Noah K. Murray/USA TODAY Sports)
By Michael Lewis
HARRISON, N.J. — New York City FC came into the Red Bulls house Saturday and did what their Hudson River Derby rivals have done to them the past two years.
City dominated the Major League Soccer side at Red Bull Arena.
Jack Harrison and Ben Sweat scored goals on either side of halftime as NYCFC recorded an emphatic …..victory in the latest edition of the rivalry.
RBA has been nothing but a house of horrors for NYCFC, which had entered the game losing all four previous matches between the two teams here by a combined 9-2 score. That included a 1-0 elimination defeat in the Lamar Hunt/U.S. Open Cup June 14.
The Red Bulls might still lead the nascent series, 6-2, but third-place City (9-5-3, 30 points) moved seven points clear of the fifth-place Red Bulls (7-8-2, 23), who have experienced an up-and-down season.
NYCFC head coach Patrick Vieira produced a near-perfect game plan in denying Red Bulls striker Bradley Wright-Phillips the ball as the spine of his team — center backs Maxime Chanot and Alex Callens, central midfielders Alex Ring and Yangel Herrera and striker David Villa dominated the match.
Goalkeeper Sean Johnson, who was not severely tested, recorded the clean sheet.
The opening half was nothing to write home about. Scoring chances were few and far between.
City had the first opportunity in the 18th minute, when goalkeeper Luis Robles parried away Jack Harrison’s shot from the right side.
The Red Bulls waited until the 26th minute to get their first dangerous attempt toward goal off a Sacha Kljestan corner kick.
While the NYCFC trainer attended to Ring at midfield, Kljestan took a swig of water at the left corner, shook the hand of City midfielder Andrea Pirlo, who was warning up at the north end of the stadium. About 30 seconds later, Daniel Royer powered a header off Kljestan’s corner wide left of the net.
NYCFC took a deserved lead in the 33rd minute on Jack Harrison’s seventh goal of the season. Left wing Rodney Wallace sent a pass to Ben Sweat, who slotted the ball to Harrison. The English forward then sent an arching shot from 12 yards past Robles into the right corner.
Discovering their rhythm, the visitors tested Robles again in the 33rd minute on a play that was originated at midfield by Villa. The Spanish international darted around center back Aurelien Collin and then Kljestan before pin-pointing a pass to Herrera, who drilled a shot that Robles managed to knock away with hands.
Sweat could not have found a better time to score his first goal of the season as his header from the left side found the far right post for a stunning two-goal lead in the 65th minute.