In a Hudson River Derby match rich with playoff implications as well as Heineken Rivalry Week intrigue, New York City FC rallied from an early deficit to avenge a July 14 loss in Harrison, New Jersey, edging the New York Red Bulls 2-1 on Saturday evening at Yankee Stadium.
Despite a flurry of first-half action, each team only found a goal each before halftime. Alex Muyl pushed the Red Bulls ahead in the 10th minute when an NYCFC turnover led to an excellent push through the final third, with Kaku providing the final ball to Muyl. Bradley Wright-Phillips almost got the Red Bulls a second with a chance for an easy tap-in just past midway through the half.
NYCFC, meanwhile, hit the crossbar (on a close-in Valentin Castellanos attempt), hit the post (on a Heber screamer from distance) and had an excellent Alexandru Mitrita free kick parried away by Luis Robles as they hunted an equalizer. But late in the first half, Maxi Moralez earned a penalty kick via a Michael Murillo foul. He took the kick from the spot himself and converted to get the hosts level.
In the 53rd minute, Heber struck in fine style to put the hosts in the lead for the first time. Anton Tinnerholm worked the ball toward the near post off a throw-in, and the Brazilian backheeled a shot through Robles' legs for the finish.
The Red Bulls answered with three subs in 12 second-half minutes, including an MLS debut for Young Designated Player Josh Sims. Though Kaku and Tim Parker nearly engineered an equalizer just before stoppage time, the Cityzens held on for the win, even after losing Ronald Matarrita to a red card after a skirmish with Murillo.
- THE BIG PICTURE: We have a situation in the East! NYCFC are now just one point behind Atlanta United at the top of the conference with a match in hand. Though it's the red side of New York that's emerged as a recent rival for the defending MLS champs, could we end up with the path to MLS Cup wending through Yankee Stadium?
- MOMENT OF THE MATCH: Two words: Backheel nutmeg! The Heber goal was stunningly finished and was the difference-maker in the match, but credit to Tinnerholm for his work to set up Heber in a dangerous spot.
- MAN OF THE MATCH: Heber delivered the game-winner, and though his first-half attempt hit woodwork rather than the net, it signaled that the home side was coming with an equalizer they got (albeit from the spot) seven minutes later.