Connor Lade chased down by Rodney Wallace
Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports

Sidelined standouts for NYCFC, Red Bulls adds to New York Derby intrigue

There are always interesting storylines when New York City FC and the New York Red Bulls meet, from the clash of colors and playing styles, to tifo and big goals from star players.

When the teams meet Wednesday (7 pm ET | FS1 — Full TV & streaming info) to kick off Heineken Rivalry Week, both teams will be missing vital pieces.

Of course, that will not deter from what will be another scintillating affair, arguably the most important derby clash to date, especially considering their chase for the Supporters’ Shield.

But it will make for some intriguing theater.

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New York City FC is the harder hit of the two teams. They will be without standout central defender Alex Callens to a knee injury, winger Jesus Medina to a hamstring injury and Ronald Matarrita to a red card suspension — all of which occurred in a 2-0 loss to the Philadelphia Union Saturday night.

All three were likely going to be in Dome Torrent’s starting XI.

And when you add the absence of newcomer Valentin Castellanos to a quad injury, the club’s depth comes into serious question.

The Red Bulls will also be without a key piece with All-Star right back Michael Murillo serving a suspension after his late sending off in a 2-2 draw against the Vancouver Whitecaps at BC Place.

What does that mean for both teams?

Callens has not missed a regular season game since joining New York City FC | USA Today Sports

Callens is the most irreplaceable player. While Maxime Chanot and Sebastian Ibeagha have split starts as the right centerback, Callens has been a mainstay on the left, starting all 25 regular season games a year after starting all 34.

Its likely Torrent will opt for both Chanot and Ibeagha together, but they’re both right-footed. Callens has also been instrumental in building from the back and he’s clearly the more mobile option there.

The other possibility would be moving Alex Ring alongside either Chanot or Ibeagha, but that creates a void in the midfield, the exact part of the field you need to solidify against the Red Bulls trio of Tyler Adams, Sean Davis and Kaku.

Medina and Matarrita, who Torrent said was set to play a big role Wednesday before his red card, will likely be replaced by Ismael Tajouri-Shradi and Jo Inge Berget, meaning NYCFC will field the same front three as Saturday, not ideal on short rest.

What could be more detrimental, though, are the options, or lack thereof, off the bench. And for a team that has wilted after halftime in the last few games, that’s not good news.

There’s young fan-favorite Jonathan Lewis, who has provided a late spark at Yankee Stadium — and set up Maxi Moralez’s late winner against the Red Bulls in July. There’s Rodney Wallace, who always puts in an honest shift, but he’s yet to score on the year.

And then there’s Tommy McNamara, who has had good moments against the Red Bulls, but he’s been used sparingly and last played in a 2-0 win over Orlando City SC on July 26.

The decision for Red Bulls coach Chris Armas is simpler. He’ll likely start Connor Lade in Murillo’s stead, as he did when the teams last met in the Bronx last month. Armas was questioned for that decision, but backed the in-form Lade, who filled in admirably when Murillo was at the World Cup with Panama.

And while Lade, a competitive workhorse, is a solid option, he lacks the mobility, especially in the attack that Murillo possesses.

That means it’s likely Torrent tries to attack Lade’s side, while the Red Bulls could be especially dangerous with Bradley Wright-Phillips and Kaku running at NYCFC’s central defense pairing as well as on set pieces.

See, that’s the thing about the New York Derby — it’s never dull.

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