NEW YORK – As far as away fixtures are concerned, the 20 miles that separate Red Bull Arena from Yankee Stadium make for a more than favorable road trip. But that’s not to say a visit to the Bronx to face New York City FC will be an enjoyable one for the New York Red Bulls.
After the Red Bulls took winning honors at Red Bull Arena in the teams’ first meeting, the newest rivalry to hit MLS shifts to New York City proper at NYCFC’s home grounds on Sunday afternoon (4:30 pm ET, ESPN, ESPN Deportes in US, TSN5 in Canada).
And the setting will likely factor heavily into the outcome. Playing at Yankee Stadium for the first time in franchise history, the Red Bulls know adjustments will need to be made on the cozy pitch.
“It’s a tough one,” Red Bulls captain Dax McCarty told reporters on Thursday afternoon. “They’ve been used to playing at Yankee Stadium now. I think they’ve played there seven or eight times, and each time they’ve gotten a little bit better. “
In contrast to their soccer-specific stadium in Harrison, N.J., the Yankee Stadium pitch is notoriously narrow, measuring 110 yards by 70 yards, as opposed to Red Bull Arena’s 120-yards-by-75-yards pitch.
“It’s a small field,” Red Bulls head coach Jesse Marsch added. “Even when you watch it on TV, it doesn’t look like the easiest place to play. We’re going to have to go there and really emphasize moving as a unit, being aware, being alert, and competing at a high level.”
The narrow pitch isn’t the only challenge RBNY will face. Coming off of a midweek match that saw their five-game winless streak come to an end with a 1-0 win over Real Salt Lake, the Red Bulls face a quick turnaround amidst their most congested portion of the schedule.
“In some ways that’s true,” Marsch said. “But in other ways we have one extra day from Wednesday to Sunday. A lot of times you’re stuck trying to get through from Wednesday to Saturday, so we feel like we have enough time.”
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Despite all that, not much is likely to change in terms of approach. Since the start of the season, Marsch has implemented a high-press system. It worked wonders in the first meeting between the New York clubs.
“That’s a real strength of the Red Bulls,” NYCFC head coach Jason Kreis said. “They play a high tempo game and they try to press in the opponents half of the field. Obviously the Red Bulls did a better job of what they were about in the first game, that’s why they won the game.”