The Red Bulls lead the Hudson River Derby series, 8-3-1. (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 classic 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 7 p.m. ET, Sunday, another chapter of the HRD will be written when NYCFC hosts the Red Bulls in the third of four confrontations this year, the second time in Major League Soccer. Another encounter came in the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup June 6, when the Red Bulls prevailed, 4-0, after winning by the same score in the league match at Red Bull Arena May 5.
Depending on your colors, your tribe enjoys the advantage.
NYCFC supporters will boast about their heroes’ unbeaten mark at Yankee Stadium this season (7-0-1).
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 8-3-1 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.
The visitors will remind the hosts they can sew up this year’s series with a win Sunday.
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 classic 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.
On Sunday, there is at least one story line already in place as both teams will sport new head coaches since the last meeting between the clubs.
Domenec Torrent will be standing in front of the City bench for his derby debut since Vieira split for Nice in June.
Chris Armas will be shouting instructions to his side from the Red Bulls coaching area in his first game as head coach. He did guide the team to an Open Cup triumph over NYCFC last year while Marsch was in Europe pursuing his coaching badge. Now, Marsch is heading for Europe again, reportedly to take a position with Red Bull Leipzig in Germany.
At time goes by, there will be own goals, 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, many more goal-scoring heroes and heroics and even scenarios that I can’t think of at the moment.
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.