Kaku celebrates his first-half goal. (Brad Penner/USA TODAY Sports)

By Michael Lewis

FrontRowSoccer.com Editor

HARRISON, N.J. — From the opening kickoff to the final whistle, the Red Bulls showed New York City FC who was boss at Red Bull Arena, rolling to an emphatic 4-0 triumph in the latest edition of the Hudson River Derby Saturday afternoon.

Alejandro Romero Gamarra, aka Kaku, was the man of the match as he masterminded three Red Bulls’ goals in the first half. He scored the first and set up subsequent scores by Florian Valot and Bradley Wright-Phillips.

Derrick Etienne added a second half goal as goalkeeper Luis Robles, who had a rather uneventful game, was credited with the shutout.

NYCFC (6-2-2, 20 points) hardly looked like the team that entered the match as the Eastern Conference leaders, especially after the opening minutes. The Red Bulls pestered the visiting side with their high-pressure tactics and never really allowed City to find its rhythm.

The hosts, who improved to 5-3-0 this season, also extended their series lead to a 7-3-1.

The key to stopping City was limiting captain David Villa and Maxi Moralez the ball.

“We designed a specific tactical pressuring scheme to try to limit those two guys. That being said, you know, with Moralez, he’s very nifty and he’s very clever at finding little pockets,” Red Bulls head coach Jesse Marsch said.

“So it was sometimes going to be Tyler [Adams] around him, but it was also going to require whoever was in the vicinity to be aware of where he was and to close down his space. And then I think you saw a tough day for David Villa based on the performances of Tim Parker and Aaron. So you know, if we can continue to get really good defensive performances and continue to tactically be on top of games, then the potential for this team is good.”

It was a difficult match for NYCFC head coach Patrick Vieira to watch.

“I’m really frustrated about the competitiveness, about the desire we had on the field,” he said. “You know, I’m prepared to accept that we can lose games, but the way we lost today with the lack of conviction, the lack of competitiveness is something that I can’t accept.”

The Red Bulls came out smoking and struck twice within four minutes to grab a stunning 2-0 advantage.

First, some nifty passing from Tyler Adams and Sean Davis set up the opening goal barely a minute after the kickoff. Davis’ long pass found Wright-Phillips and the English striker motored into the penalty area. He fired a shot that goalkeeper Sean Johnson dove to his left to tip away, but Kaku slotted the rebound home for his third goal of the season.

The stadium P.A. announcer had barely given out the information on that goal before the Red Bulls doubled their lead and delight. This time Valot smacked a shot from atop the right side of the penalty area. The ball hit NYCFC center back Alex Callens and changed direction, giving Johnson no hope of making a save as the host side enjoyed a two-goal lead.

“We dug our own hole in the first five minutes of the game,” Johnson said. “We were punished for it.”

The quick scores prompted different reactions. The NYCFC bench got up in unison and started practicing and the Southward spectators began chanting, “We want seven,” alluding to the 7-0 Red Bulls victory over City at Yankee Stadium in 2016.

The Red Bulls were not finished with their demolition of City in the first half as BWP leapt between two defenders to finish off a Kaku right-wing cross from point-blank range for an astonishing 3-0 advantage in the 35th minute. It was Wright-Phillips’ 11th goal in 10 derby matches.

“It’s always good to score against your rivals but scoring e11 goals against them doesn’t really mean anything,” BWP said. “You don’t get anything for it. Obviously, on the day, I want to score and help my team win so it’s good but the actual total doesn’t mean anything.”

The visitors showed a little more life in the second half, trying to make a game of it, but the Red Bulls held fast, keeping City in check.

Villa was pulled by head coach Patrick Vieira in the 66th minute as Rodney Wallace replaced him.

“In all honesty, we did a fantastic job,” Kaku said. “Regarding details, I think we were very superior to them because we were on top of things in every moment because we knew they have great players. I think we did a great match and the key for the victory was the constant pressure we did.”

Etienne Jr., who replaced Daniel Royer in the 65th minute, added to City’s misery in the 78th minute. After Valot smashed a chance off the crossbar, NYCFC was unable to clear the ball from its zone. Eventually, passes from Valot and Adams found Etienne, Jr. who rounded Johnson and slipped the ball into an empty net for a 4-0 lead.

“We have no excuses,” City midfielder Alex Ring said. “We didn’t bring our heart into the game and bring the energy.

“We have to be honest with ourselves and take responsibility for today, look in the mirror. We know the truth. It was a [crap] game from us and we deserved to lose.”

The next time these two rivals tussle will be July 8 at Yankee Stadium.

Scoring Summary:

NY – Kaku 3 (unassisted) 2′
NY – Florian Valot 3 (Kaku) 4′
NY – Bradley Wright-Phillips 6 (Kaku, Sean Davis) 35′
NY – Derrick Etienne, Jr. 2 (Florian Valot, Tyler Adams) 79′

Misconduct Summary:

NYC – Ebenezer Ofori (caution, unsporting behavior) 64′
NY – Tim Parker (caution, unsporting behavior) 75′

New York Red Bulls: Luis Robles ©; Kemar Lawrence, Tim Parker, Aaron Long, Michael Amir Murillo, Tyler Adams, Sean Davis, Daniel Royer (Derrick Etienne, Jr., 65′), Kaku (Alex Muyl, 71′), Florian Valot, Bradley Wright-Phillips (Vincent Bezecourt, 78′)


NYCFC: Sean Johnson; Alexander Callens, Maxime Chanot (Sebastian Ibeagha, HT), Anton Tinnerholm (Ebenezer Ofori, HT), Ben Sweat, Alexander Ring, Maxi Moralez, Yangel Herrera, David Villa © (Rodney Wallace, 66′), Jo Inge Berget, Jesus Medina


Referee: Kevin Stott
Assistant Referees: Brian Poeschel, CJ Morgante
4th Official: Sorin Stoica
VAR: Mark Geiger

Attendance: 25,219