Omir Fernandez celebrates his goal while pointing to a Red Bull fan and a scarf who is sitting in a sea of red. (Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports)
By Michael Lewis
It took a Bronx native to lift the Red Bulls over New York City FC Saturday night.
Omir Fernandez, who grew up 23 blocks from Yankee Stadium, tallied the lone goal to boost the Red Bulls to a 1-0 win over NYCFC in the Hudson River Derby.
The victory was the Red Bulls’ first at the stadium since their 7-0 shellacking of City in May 2016.
Goalkeeper Carlos Coronel made several outstanding saves to record his sixth clean sheet of the season. He was aided by the stellar play of center back Sean Nealis, aided by Kyle Duncan, who shut down and frustrated NYCFC’s top goal-scorer, Taty Castellanos (13 goals).
From the Brooklyn to the Bronx!
— New York Red Bulls (@NewYorkRedBulls) September 26, 2021
The victory kept the Red Bulls undefeated in this season’s Hudson River Derby series with NYCFC, after recording an 11th-hour equalizer at Red Bull Arena, 1-1, Wednesday night.
Moreover, the Red Bulls (8-11-6, 30 point) extended their unbeaten streak to three as they gained three valuable points in their quest to get back into the Eastern Conference playoff race. NYCFC (39) dropped to 11-9-6.
“We deserved to win,” Red Bulls head coach Gerhard Struber said.. “Absolutely, it’s a big win. It’s a big feeling to be away against the team on this level.”
He later added: “We worked so hard for the momentum, so hard to come back.”
NYCFC entered the match with a bit of a disadvantage as two regulars, center back Maxime Chanot and midfielder Keaton Parks, were forced to be spectators due to red cards they incurred in the 1-1 draw at Red Bull Arena Wednesday night.
The first half was defined by the fine play of the NYCFC midfield, especially in the early going, and Fernandez’s close encounters.
City was quite content in deploying a short passing game while the Red Bulls tried the long ball on too many occasions.
Both goalkeepers came up big in the opening 10 minutes, as the Red Bulls’ Carlos Coronel denied Alex Callens in the seventh minute before Fernandez’s point-blank shot went off Sean Johnson’s face in the 10th minute.
Fernandez had another close encounter in the 39th minute as his left-flank feed was deflected by NYCFC center back James Sands to Johnson, who pounced the ball to ensure it did not turn into an own goal.
The next time the Bronx native had the ball in the box, Fernandez made sure he connected. Kyle Duncan used a few moves to get an open pass to Fernandez, who slotted the ball home in the 43rd minute as the visitors walked into the locker room with a 1-0 edge.
“It was like an unexpected moment for me,” Fernandez said. “I’m always in the box always trying to score whenever I can. When I saw the ball coming straight at me, I don’t know I describe it to the guys. I see everything just happen at once, like all this joy come to me.”
After the ball entered the net, the Bronx-born Fernandez said that he had “a lot of emotion, too many to process.”
“It’s like slow motion. I’m just trying to process what just happened, trying to catch my breath, trying to do my job on the field.”
He accomplished the feat in front of his parents.
“It was special for me to score here in front of my parents,” he said. “They probably drove 10 minutes from the house, so it was something so meaningful for me to score and celebrate right in front of them.”
Coronel produced several vital saves in the second half, including a two-handed parry of Jesus Medina’s close-range shot in the 79th minute.
The teams will play the third game of the derby at RBA Oct. 17.