NEW YORK – The rivalry between Major League Soccer’s New York clubs is still in its formative years but it’s already on its way to becoming one of the most contentious in the league. With both clubs in excellent form, dominating the Eastern Conference and the race for the MLS Golden Boot, a potential rivalry clash in the Audi 2016 MLS Cup Playoffs is a tantalizing prospect.
“In the biggest cities in the world, any time their franchises are doing well, it creates a lot of buzz and a lot of attention,” said NYCFC defender Jason Hernandez during an autograph session in Times Square on Tuesday. “The Milans and the Manchesters, these cities in the world... I think New York can be one of those places.”
A New York native, Hernandez believes that New York City FC and the New York Red Bulls are on their way to creating one of the most compelling rivalries in sports, pointing to what has been built over just two seasons.
“To have two teams that are in very good form, that are going to be competing not only in this playoff picture but for years to come, I think it does a ton of good for the sport,” he said.
For NYCFC midfielder Tommy McNamara, the potential of an Eastern Conference Championship series against the Red Bulls would have a lasting effect for the sport in a city that didn’t see any soccer trophies in the area until 2013, when the Red Bulls won their first Supporters’ Shield.
“It's really special. Some of the biggest games in soccer are rivalries,” McNamara said. “There's just an extra buzz around the city whenever that game is coming around the corner, when you see it in the regular season. I can only imagine that if it ever does come to that there's going to be a lot more excitement, a lot more energy and buzz around the city.”
Still, as both New York teams await their respective opponents in the Eastern Conference semifinals, McNamara is wary of thinking too far ahead.
“We got two games to play before we can even get there and that's what we need to focus on,” he said.
The same goes for McNamara's teammates.
“We missed out on the Open Cup trophy, we missed out on the Supporters’ Shield trophy, even though we were close, and now our final target is the MLS Cup,” said Hernandez. “You're going to have to beat very good teams and obviously the Red Bulls have shown they're a good team.
“Regardless of the path we need to take to get there, that's what we want to do, our final goal is to win the MLS Cup and be the ones holding the trophy at the end of the day,” he concluded.