There is no bigger game for New York City FC fans than the derby clashes with the New York Red Bulls and there is maybe no more anticipated clash than Saturday’s at Red Bull Arena (1:55 pm ET | ESPN - full TV & streaming info).
“This is the most exciting Hudson River Derby game since the opener,” said Jordan Griffith, a founding season ticket holder and host of the New York City Football Podcast. “NYCFC is still the David Villa show, but in years past, the Red Bulls had more evenly distributed and, frankly, better overall teams. With depth at almost every position, the 2018 squad is the most complete team in NYCFC’s history.”
The rivalry was decidedly red early on, but trended blue a year ago with NYCFC winning two of three league encounters — with the other a draw. Their only loss to the Red Bulls in 2017 came in the U.S. Open Cup.
With just one loss in their first nine games this season, NYCFC are atop the Supporters' Shield standings and appear to be a legitimate MLS Cup contender, another reason why fans are feeling more confident heading to Red Bull Arena on Saturday.
“The results and current run of play have shown the growth of the club,” said Tony Larsen, a season ticket holder who was what he called an occasional MetroStars and Red Bulls match viewer before NYCFC was established. “While we need to respect each club we face, there is no need to fear any team. The added depth throughout the lines gives confidence that even with injuries there will be strong options available.”
The offseason acquisitions by both teams to bolster roster depth and add integral parts -- setting up an interesting chess match between coaches Patrick Vieira and Jesse Marsch -- is another reason NYCFC fans are eagerly anticipating the first derby match of 2018.
“This one is the first time the Red Bulls have spent money on quality players and Vieira has to figure out how to play against Kaku. And Marsch has to figure out the new-look front four for NYCFC,” New York City fan Michael Vazquez said. “I think Marsch's inability to really cope with the new players last year was a big reason NYCFC got seven points out of nine last year, and Marsch knows this as well.”
NYCFC's Jesus Medina, left, and New York Red Bulls' "Kaku" Romero Gamarra, right, are the biggest examples of how both teams have invested in their squads. | USA Today Images
Vazquez has supported NYCFC from its inception, but he will not be in Harrison Saturday. A student at the University of South Florida, he’ll be watching with several NYCFC fans at a sports bar in St. Petersburg.
“I'm nervous about the result with this year being 'Win every game to get that CCL spot.’ But at the same time, this might be one of the best matchups this season,” Vazquez said. “It’s crazy not to be excited for it.”
John Malone describes himself as “cautiously optimistic,” but the founding member season ticket holder is concerned about NYCFC’s ability to match the Red Bulls' intensity on Saturday.
“Red Bull as a collective always seems to take this game a bit more seriously,” Malone said. “They play it with a chip on their shoulder despite starting out with six wins in seven matches, including the Open Cup win. It’ll be up to guys like Villa to explain to the new cats what it means to the supporters at least.”
RBNY v. NYCFC Saturday @ 2pm ET at Red Bull Arena – Limited tickets available for the NY Derby starting at $40