MLS Insider: Tom Bogert

Red Bulls brace for "dogfight" against NYCFC in New York Derby

For the first time in league play, the New York Red Bulls are gearing up to face New York City FC after their arch-rival won MLS Cup 2021.

As RBNY have enjoyed extended success over the last dozen years with three Supporters' Shields and a constant presence in the Audi MLS Cup Playoffs, the Philip F. Anschutz Trophy has nonetheless eluded them. Watching their cross-Hudson River foe summit that particular mountaintop first sure doesn't help, given RBNY's 20-season head start in MLS as an original club from the 1996 campaign. NYCFC joined the league in 2015 as an expansion club.

That doesn't erase the Red Bulls' pride in their all-time record over NYCFC (13W-6L-3D in all competitions), which has once again tipped back to red. RBNY have won each of the derby's last three chapters and are unbeaten in four games with head coach Gerhard Struber in charge. NYCFC have scored just once in those four games, the most recent of which was RBNY's 3-0 win in the US Open Cup quarterfinals last month.

“We obviously weren’t happy with that," homegrown attacker Omir Fernandez told media during a virtual press conference when asked about watching NYCFC winning MLS Cup. "But we don’t forget that we beat them as many times as we did last season and [knocked them out] of the Open Cup. They don’t like playing against us. We know that.”

The Red Bulls enter Sunday's match at Red Bull Arena (5 pm ET | ESPN, ESPN Deportes) in a rich vein of form, sitting third in the Eastern Conference standings, two points below NYCFC as both chase frontrunning Philadelphia Union.

“In the last four games against them, we’ve had more fun than them," Struber said. "That’s the big goal on Sunday, to make NYCFC’s football on a bad level with our intensity.”

NYCFC hit a rocky period after manager Ronny Deila left for Belgium's Standard Liege, going winless in five matches when emerging from the June international break. But interim head coach Nick Cushing has guided the club to back-to-back wins over the last week.

“We know how successful NYCFC are, how they can play football," Struber said. "We remember the past, we know the situation, we have the memories in our brain that they won MLS Cup last season.”

Reigning Golden Boot presented by Audi winner and star forward Taty Castellanos remains with NYCFC as speculation grows over a potential transfer abroad. Maxi Moralez, who is listed as questionable with an upper body injury, remains a highly-effective midfielder creator, while Talles Magno has taken a star turn this year on the flanks. The Cityzens have plenty of attacking talent that RBNY will have to contend with, plus goalkeeper Sean Johnson and center back Alexander Callens are both 2022 MLS All-Stars alongside Castellanos.

“We know our style of play gives them trouble, we know they don’t like it," said Fernandez, a Bronx native. "If we can get this game under our control, under our terms, we’ll have a successful night.”

A big, raucous crowd is expected Sunday night at Red Bull Arena for the Heineken Rivalry Week match.

“It will be a big help for my boys when we have a top atmosphere," Struber said. "I love our stadium, I love when we have many fans in the stadium, they create a top atmosphere. It’s very helpful. I hope we have a full house maybe. For every player, for me, it’s a big help.”

From the onset, emotions should be at fever-pitch levels in the New York Derby.

"We’re both toward the top of the table," said RBNY and US men's national team center back Aaron Long. "We’re going to expect it to be a dogfight for sure. We know they’re a really good team, so they’re going to be up for it and so will we."