Ok I lied, this isn't strictly a column. Rather it's a conversation between myself and my colleague Bobby Warshaw in an effort to decipher what happened in RBNY's 1-1 draw at NYCFC on Wednesday night in the first game of Heineken Rivalry Week.
Let's dive in:
Matthew Doyle (MD): It was 90 minutes of rivalry soccer. I thought they were gonna go for machetes and ax handles there for a second. Some people love that, and I get why. I prefer to see more “soccer.”
Bobby Warshaw (BW): Felt the same thing. It met the base level of entertainment because it was wild. But the lack of interesting soccer elements kept it from really connecting on a deeper level.
MD: This game was well-played in the “there’s a lot of talent on the field” sense of the descriptor. These are two of the better teams, just in terms of raw ability, in the league. And it showed. But they just don’t seem as connected to me as they were, for lack of a better word. And that was apparent in some of the gamesmanship – more diving and rough play than usual from NYCFC (hence the two red cards), worse shot discipline than usual from RBNY, and a momentary switch-off from Aaron Long on David Villa's goal.
BW: Agreed. Their games didn't used to be this wild because the teams were so well put together. It feels like part of the chaos tonight came from the lack of – structure/confidence/continuity? – from the teams. One led to the other.
MD: Is that to be expected given both coaches are still finding their feet?
BW: I actually feel like this is more about NYCFC. Red Bulls games are meant to be chaotic. But chaotic in their way, and they can only maneuver it into their happy zone when the other team has some sense of order. It's like how a chess grandmaster approaches a match. Grandmasters often struggle most with amateurs because amateurs create situations that are totally random.
So as soon as NYCFC said "screw it" on the order, too, is when the game started to get weird.
MD:Bradley Wright-Phillips agreed. These postgame quotes are... illuminating:
Bradley Wright-Phillips on NY Derby draw: "It feels like a loss"
"I don't even want to talk any rubbish, I think credit to New York City," Wright-Phillips told FS1's Katie Witham. "It's embarrassing, they're down to nine men, we created nothing, really, and they got the point they deserved. The first half I felt like we were in control and the second half we came out and did nothing."
Witham then asked BWP if he was satisfied with a point on the night, and once again, he was blunt in his assessment. "Not at all, because it feels like a loss."
It sounds like we all agree that NYCFC will be the happier of the two teams? I'm concerned that they put in another mediocre performance (even before the
red) and tried another new system, but that's such an emotional
draw for them. This is the type of performance that galvanizes a team. Even though it wasn't a great night in
terms, it was a good night for them overall.
MD: Here was my take from Twitter:
But you know who it was a really great result for? C’mon Bobby, I want to hear you say it.
BW: Yeah, the big winner on the night is Atlanta. Not just both of main contenders for Supporters’ Shield (and the CCL spot) dropping points, but just watching the quality.
MD: I think I’d be psyched if I was a fan of Atlanta or Columbus. RBNY and NYCFC are both still pretty good teams, but not the very good-to-excellent teams they were a couple of months back, and to me that comes down to identity. For both it’s been watered down.
BW: I can't disagree with that, but I do suspect both teams will get better as the playoffs near. This is prime "We are making the playoffs so let's try to work on some things and peak in the playoffs" time for some teams. Games like this could make both teams better in the end. Or, at least I hope so. It'll be more fun if New York teams keep the Shield race close until the end.