HARRSION, N.J. – They may have done their best to temper expectations in the buildup to Sunday night’s match, but there was no denying it after their 2-1 victory: this match meant something more to the New York Red Bulls.
The Red Bulls’ first-ever clash with New York City FC was a focal point of the season since the schedules were announced earlier this year, and it felt for some as if the fixture would never arrive. But when the crosstown clubs finally squared off, the Red Bulls returned to the win column for the first time in four matches with a truly satisfying result.
Narratives of what this rivalry might one day be ran rampant as fans and players alike fanned the flames in the week leading up to the clash. And while a win still means just another three points for the Red Bulls, the atmosphere at Red Bull Arena gave the match an unmatched intensity.
“It felt like MLS Cup, to be honest,” captain Dax McCarty said postgame. “The only time I’ve ever seen Red Bull Arena like that was maybe the Arsenal game. It was unbelievable, it truly was.
“We tried to downplay the rivalry aspect of it, but whenever a team comes and brings 2,000 fans and they’re loud and you hear them, you always want to win and shut them up. You could feel it was a really big game and an important game.”
Adding to the electric atmosphere was the substantial and relentless traveling support.
For all the buzz that had surrounded this match in the priors weeks and months, it was always going to come down to not only the play on the field, but the life of the crowd. And as the RBNY and NYCFC supporters went back and forth for 90 minutes, it was evident that the inaugural match between these two New York outfits would be a special one.
“It was awesome,” Sacha Kljestan admitted. “You could feel the crowd tonight.
“[The NYCFC supporters] were there from the warm-ups and I saw them right when I came out. It’s cool to see teams with traveling support. Because the country’s so big, you don’t see that very often in MLS. I respect that very much.”
For as emotional as a game it turned out to be, head coach Jesse Marsch still implored his side to stay in control. And that task became even more difficult following Matt Miazga’s first-half red card. Forced to play with 10 men for nearly an hour, Marsch asked his men to dig deep, and they responded in a big way.
“I wanted our team to use the emotion in the right way, but also stay focused on the things we felt we needed to do to command the game,” Marsch told reporters.
“Especially when you’re down a man and you see your guys fighting like hell to do everything they can to win that match, it was inspiring. I’m proud of them.”