HARRISON, N.J. – The sweep is complete, and the Red Bulls are moving on.
With nine points in tow after their inaugural three-game set with New York City FC, there’s no doubt that the Red Bulls are reveling in the spoils of their victory. And in their much-hyped matchup with the crosstown rivals, the home side embodied the big brother role, showing no fear against their star-studded counterparts in a 2-0 win on Sunday.
“Those guys are great players,” Bradley Wright-Phillips said of NYCFC’s DP triumvirate of David Villa, Andrea Pirlo and Frank Lampard. “There’s always going to be hype around their names. But on the pitch, everyone’s equal—we all bleed.”
The Red Bulls had no problem exposing NYCFC’s star-studded lineup to be mere mortals on the day, as a suffocating performance from their midfield gave the likes of Pirlo and Lampard little time and space to operate effectively.
“We were excited about the match-up,” midfielder Sacha Kljestan said. “We’ve been watching them play for the past couple of weeks and we felt like we could exploit them. I feel like we did a really good job of keeping the ball tonight and putting them under pressure.”
The victory will certainly be a sweet one for the Red Bulls, but their goals stretch far beyond winning derby matches. As their larger goal of MLS Cup still remains very much at large, the three victories over NYCFC are important more so for the significance in the standings than in the stands, as the Red Bulls seek to close the gap on Eastern Conference leaders D.C. United.
The win has the New York surging up the table, now 6-1-1 in their last eight league matches.
“It’s huge not just because we swept NYCFC, but because we’re moving up the table and moving in on first place,” defender Matt Miazga told MLSsoccer.com. “That’s the goal and we have a few games in hand.
“We’re worried about us. We’re 3-0 against them so they can talk all they want, but we move forward now."
“It feels good to know that in their first season, we took nine points,” Kljestan added. “But most importantly we move back into second place and we still have those games in hand on D.C.”
His head coach echoed a similar sentiment.
“This is a statement on what we’re establishing here,” Jesse Marsch said. “It has nothing to do with [NYCFC] other than that they’re our big rivals. In three important games, in three hard games, we showed our maturity and who we are. It has so much more to do with what we’re trying to do here than anything else.”