Sacha Kljestan and three of his Red Bulls teammates will have to watch on what they do in front of and say to the referee Friday night. (Troy Wayrynen/USA TODAY Sports)

By Michael Lewis Editor

The Red Bulls will face more than New York City FC as their adversaries in the final confrontation of this year’s Hudson River Derby at Red Bull Arena Friday night.

They will be battling themselves and perhaps referee Jair Marrufo as well.

Four key players are one yellow card away from serving a one-game suspension due to yellow-card accumulation. They include leading goal-scorer Bradley Wright-Phillips and midfielders Sacha Kljestan, the team captain, Felipe and Sean Davis.

“The only thing I said to them is that if one of them picks one up in the game, the other three have be hyper- aware of the fact that they we can’t have a bunch of guys missing,” Marsch told media after training at the Red Bull Training Facility in Hanover, N.J. Wednesday.

Message received.

“It’s not easy to go without getting a yellow card, but I also have to be mindful that we also have a few other guys … on yellows,” Kljestan said, who reiterated Marsch’s comments.

“We have talked about that if one of us gets a yellow card in a game we can’t be piling on with another guy getting one,” he added. “Then we’re missing two or three key guys in one game. We got to be smart and tactical about the way we do things the next three, four, five games.

Wright-Phillips said most of his yellows come from dissent to the ref, so he plans to get quiet when a call goes against the Red Bulls.

“My game really doesn’t change,” he said. “I don’t really get booked too often. I think most of comes from me being just being frustrated with the ref or something. I plan to shut my mouth and just get on with the game. I think I’ll be all right. It will be more difficult for midfielders. But for me, it should be good. I hope I don’t jinx it.”

Part of the strategy of staying away from yellows is staying away from making stupid plays. Kljestan remembered the card that put him into yellow peril, when he pushed a Portland player into the signage in the Red Bulls’ 2-0 loss at the Portland Timbers Friday.

“Obviously, you don’t want to get your fifth yellow a dumb one,” he said. “The one I got in Portland was a really dumb yellow card. Regrettable circumstance as to what I did. I’ve got to be smart for the next one. Everyone’s just got to be a little more mindful.”

Of course, there’s a time and a place for everything. Sometimes you have to take one for the team if it means a dangerous scoring opportunity for the opposition.

“If you have to take a tactical foul on a counterattack to stop David Villa going towards goal, I think it would be worth it,” Kljestan said. “But yeah, no stupid yellows going forward.”

Marsch said he was not a fan of the league’s rule in which a player goes five games without a yellow, there would be no ban.

“The league thinks that this five game thing is a better relief, is a bigger opportunity for players,” he said. “I would actually disagree.

“What it used to be, when you got to the suspension you had three and you could go back down to one. It’s a lot easier to get through three games than five. Now five, any time you can go down.”

Then the Red Bulls head coach spoke from experience. During his 14-year Major League Soccer career, Marsch accrued 61 yellows (and two red cards) in 321 matches. That would come out to slightly more than a card every five games.

“Speaking from a guy who got a lot of yellows, I don’t know if I ever went five games in a row without a yellow,” he said. “I think it makes it harder.”