So, who will prevail in the first derby match of the season? (FrontRowSoccer.com Photo)
By Michael Lewis
There is no middle ground.
Either you are red, or you are blue.
There is no purple, especially in this derby.
Red, of course, is for the Red Bulls, blue for New York City FC.
Three years after playing the first confrontation of the Hudson River Derby, the annual series is slowly maturing, hopefully heading towards a rivalry. It might take years or even decades to get close to the intensity of the ones in Europe and South America, but the derby is heading in the right direction.
At 2 p.m. ET, Saturday, the fourth year of the HRD kicks off at Red Bull Arena when the Red Bulls host NYCFC. As usual, the annual series will consist of three regular-season matches and if the stars align, perhaps another Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup encounter for the second consecutive year, and maybe, just maybe a playoff series.
It is difficult to predict how a game will go turn out, though this HRD match could be different as three events will converge Saturday. First is the derby (pronounced darby). Then there’s the Kentucky Derby (pronounced derby) and of course, there’s Cinco de Mayo.
The earliest all three would fall on the same date again would be in 2029. So perhaps there will is some cosmic significance to the game.
After City’s 3-1 win over FC Dallas Sunday, forward Jo Inge Berget fired the first salvo of this year’s derby:
“Of course, I played some derbies over the years and it’s always fun. This is going to be a new one for me. Of course, it’s a derby of New York. I don’t know if they’re really a New York team, but they want to be one, so I think it’s going to be a fun game. Obviously, we want to have a win there.”
Depending on your colors, your tribe enjoys the advantage.
NYCFC supporters will boast about their heroes’ first-place standing in the Eastern Conference with a 6-1-2 record and 20 points.
Red Bulls fans will remind their rivals that their team reached the semifinals of the CONCACAF Champions League and despite a rather mediocre 4-3-0 mark and sixth-place standing, their side is just getting into gear.
The red shirts will point to their side’s 6-3-1 domination in the series.
The blue shirts will pound their chests and note that their team won last year’s regular-season series with a 2-0-1 mark.
There already is a budding history.
The Red Bulls’ 7-0 drubbing at Yankee Stadium.
Bradley Wright-Phillips’s incredible scoring.
David Villa’s hat-trick in a great duel with BWP.
Patrick Vieira’s dismissal from the bench and his tiff with Jesse Marsch.
Slowly, but surely, it is building a repository of great moments, incidents and stories.
And there will be more.
At time goes by, there will be own goal, stoppage-time goals, Video Assistant Referee controversies, red cards, multiple red cards, fights, controversial penalty kicks, stand on your head goalkeeper performances, injuries, scoreless draws and many more goal-scoring heroes and heroics.
The ultimate derby confrontation? It would be in the playoffs, whether it was in the knockout round, the Eastern Conference semifinals or the final. Think of it! Both teams battling for an opportunity to reach MLS Cup.
No doubt, the best chapters are yet to come.