Felipe and David Villa arguing at New York Derby, August 6 2017
USA Today Sports Images

Felipe, New York Red Bulls gunning for NYCFC matchup in MLS Cup Playoffs

HANOVER, N.J. – The New York Red Bulls could face any of four different teams in the Knockout Round of the Audi 2017 MLS Cup Playoffs next week.

According to midfielder Felipe, however, there’s only one team the Red Bulls want to face: NYCFC.

Perhaps the greatest protagonist (or antagonist, depending on your perspective) in the history of the New York Derby, Felipe clearly loves to wind up NYCFC and their supporters. So it’s no surprise he cast his eyes across the Hudson River on Wednesday.

“Yes, New York City. I think we want to play them – we want to play them. It will be a great overall environment for our fans and for us to play against a team that is a rival,” he said. “We want to play the best teams we can play. I think we are one of them. We can show them how good we are and move forward in a good direction.”

The Red Bulls and NYCFC played three times in the regular season, with the Red Bulls posting a disappointing 0-2-1 record against their local rivals. While they couldn’t notch a win against NYCFC in the regular season, the Red Bulls did beat City 1-0 at Red Bull Arena in the early rounds of the US Open Cup on June 14.

The New York Derby has never been contested in the playoffs, however. The idea of the two rivals meeting this postseason is enticing.

The Red Bulls are locked in as the Eastern Conference's sixth seed, but NYCFC’s situation is more fluid: They’re currently in second, but could drop all the way to fifth depending on the Sunday results of Decision Day presented by AT&T. If they finish third, they’ll host the Red Bulls in the Knockout Round on Wednesday or Thursday.

But before they head into the playoffs, the Red Bulls have another rivalry match on their hands this weekend – one that is more storied and perhaps deeper than anything New York has with NYCFC.

The Red Bulls will take on old Atlantic Cup rival D.C. United in the final MLS match at RFK Stadium on Sunday (4 pm ET; MLS LIVE). It’ll be a huge occasion for the Black-and-Red and MLS, even if Red Bulls head coach Jesse Marsch follows through on his plan to rest players this weekend ahead of the Knockout Round.

Red Bulls fans would love a win at D.C. in the final game at RFK. That venue has been a hotbed for the league’s oldest rivalry, one that has seen plenty of passion and pain on both sides.

Regardless of his starting XI, Marsch wants to close RFK on the Red Bulls’ terms.

“I think we’re going to be very smart about how we use guys. We can’t have too many guys start who we think will go less than 90 minutes,” Marsch said.

“We know it’s an important game for the fans and important for the Atlantic Cup, and we’d love nothing more than end D.C.’s time at RFK with a loss. That will be our emphasis, we’re going to go there, no matter who is on the field, go after the game in a big way. And the points can help us MLS Cup time. There’s enough motivations to make sure that we put a really good foot forward.”