Rivalry Week

New York Red Bulls set sights on NYCFC after blitzing DC United


Do you dislike the New York Red Bulls? Get in line.

Rivalry Week presented by Continental Tire is a busy time for RBNY, thanks to the renewal of their quarter-century-old Atlantic Cup antagonism with D.C. United and the newer, but just as nasty, crosstown beef with New York City FC that is the Hudson River Derby on Saturday (7:30 pm ET | MLS Season Pass).

Amidst all that hate, the Red Bulls are thriving. Burnishing their credentials as MLS Cup contenders, even.

Four strikes from four different players fueled Wednesday’s 4-1 thrashing of D.C. in Washington, their second straight four-goal outburst following last weekend’s defeat of New England, while some excellent shot-stopping from goalkeeper Carlos Coronel stymied a United side who were superior in the expected-goals category.

In sum, it provides ample wind beneath their wings ahead of a looming showdown at Citi Field vs. NYCFC, who themselves are now on a red-hot 5W-1L-0D run after an unsightly start to their campaign.

“Now, and I said this directly to the whole team, to the whole staff, we have now two days’ recovery, and it's a good week – but we want to have a perfect week,” said head coach Sandro Schwarz in his postgame press conference at Audi Field. “Now we start to turn the focus on the Saturday game.”

As many have noted on this and other websites, RBNY have evolved their game model this season, becoming less direct, more comfortable in possession and willing to work from a deeper block. Yet Wednesday’s win was something of a throwback, hinging on plenty of swift transitions and ruthless exploitation of opponents’ errors. And it was achieved by a lineup with several changes due to this busy phase of the calendar.

“Flexibility is a good keyword. But don't forget,” noted Schwarz, “we showed this the whole season, that we can switch positions; not our principles, our principles, this is our key, how we want to play. But we need to have players from the whole roster and it's good to have this competition in every training session. Not only to have 10, 11, 12 players and to hope that nobody is injured or something like that. We need the whole team in a good spot and to be ready when the moment is coming.”

Claiming six points in five days also helps vanquish the lingering sourness from that painful 6-2 shellacking at the hands of Inter Miami on May 4, a match the Red Bulls led 1-0 at halftime before cratering brutally in the second stanza.

RBNY now sit third in the Eastern Conference and fourth in the overall league table (6W-2L-5D), and have lost just twice in MLS play this year: That humbling in South Florida and a 3-0 setback against the defending MLS Cup champions Columbus Crew in Ohio in March. They and their supporters will be highly motivated to extend that form in Queens this weekend.

“It’s built-in that we're going to be up for it. We always are. We're always ready to battle,” said winger Cameron Harper, whose cool finish for RBNY’s second of the night was his second goal in as many games, of the NYCFC clash. “We know it's going to be a really tough game, and they've been doing actually really well, and they're a good team. But we'll move on and game plan as of tomorrow and how we can best play against them. It's always a tough game when you go to Citi Field or Yankee Stadium, so I think we're really looking forward to it.”

Notably, the red side of Gotham has now pushed their 2024 scoring production to 24 goals in 13 league matches, fourth-best in MLS. While top scorer Lewis Morgan tallied again on Wednesday to run his season total to nine, good for fifth in the 2024 MLS Golden Boot presented by Audi race, seven others have found the net as well.

“It’s a good feeling when you get the result, especially after the Miami game,” said Schwarz. “To have this reaction and to have the confidence directly to win the game against New England, to score four times, now to score four times in a difficult game in D.C. United, it's good to get this confidence, to create the atmosphere.”

RBNY have now gone three years without tasting defeat against D.C., and are 5W-2L-1D in their last eight meetings with City.

“Saturday, we know it's an important game for our club, for our employees. We want to have this perfect week. We have now six points for this week, but we want to create that step by step. We don’t have now in the next days tactical sessions, it’s not possible. So we need good recovery, good video session tomorrow,” added their first-year German manager. “We don't analyze now the game from today or the last Saturday game, only the games we analyze now are the games which principles we need for Saturday. This is the main target.”