NYCFC pivot from derby loss to "long race" of playoff hunt: "It's one game"

HARRISON, N.J. – New York City FC enters the MLS All-Star break smarting from a 4-1 loss to their rivals the New York Red Bulls at steamy Red Bull Arena Sunday afternoon.

It was a bitter pill to swallow for Major League Soccer’s best road team. But it didn’t take the players long to peel back from the loss and realize they are in a much better position after this loss at Red Bull Arena than they were a year ago.

“It’s a difficult league to go and win game after game, tough places to go and play. Playing away from home, in this heat, we didn’t play our best and we lose the game,” midfielder Frank Lampard said. “But when you look at the standings and you see we’re top, the difference from last year when we were struggling all year really, you can take confidence from that.”

That is the case. Despite the loss, the fifth in six all-time meetings with the Red Bulls and second of three this season, NYCFC (9-7-6) go into the break sitting atop the Eastern Conference with 33 points, two points ahead of the second-place Red Bulls. A year ago, NYCFC were 6-9-6 heading into the break and well on their way to missing out on the MLS Cup playoffs.

“Of course we want to win derbies, but we are here for winning the league,” NYCFC captain David Villa said. “This is a race. Today we lost three points, but the reality is we are top of the table now. We are in a good position. We have 12 more games and we need to be strong in the next 12 games for getting a good position in the table, nothing more.”

Villa said he liked his team’s response after the 7-0 defeat at Yankee Stadium on May 21, when NYCFC went 4-1-1 in their next six games and climbed atop the East.

“After the game, we had very good games in a row of winning and escalating in the table. It’s one game, three points lost,” Villa said. “We need to improve, of course, but this is a race, a long race because it’s a lot of months for the race. If you see the table, we are in the first position.”