The Hudson River Derby has grown over the past year, the results on the field perhaps balancing what was once a lopsided rivalry in MLS.
After two years of dominating the upstarts from across the river, the New York Red Bulls have a very difficult foe in New York City FC, a team that boasts both star power and some tremendous young talent.
The Yankee Stadium side took two wins and a draw from last year’s three meetings in the regular season, although the Red Bulls did bounce their rivals out of the Open Cup last year. After two years of controlling the derby, the Red Bulls certainly got outclassed last season.
And with more parity in the derby, the Red Bulls see this as a more competitive, more fiery meeting. The two teams meet this Saturday afternoon at Red Bull Arena.
“I think any rivalry has to have give-and-take, and last year, we knocked them out of the Open Cup, but in the league, we weren’t able to get a win,” Jesse Marsch said Tuesday following training. “I think overall, this rivalry has become something that the fans enjoy, that the teams enjoy.”
The Red Bull’s head coach continued on about what has turned into a heated rivalry, and the big match ahead Saturday.
“I think there is a lot of respect in both camps for each other. As much as there has been a lot of emotion, we have a lot of respect for the team that they are, for the job that their coach has done, the job that their organization has done. They play differently than us which also makes it stylistically a very interesting matchup and a big challenge for us. We’ll be really fired up and really ready for a massive challenge for us at this point in our season, and a chance for us to prove to ourselves that we’re a good team and that we’ve made good progress. That we’re ready for big challenges.”
The rivalry has been testy and feisty at times, with emotions and attitudes often going to the heads of players in both blue and red. Literally.
At training this week, one player let it all go to his head.
Jamaican international Kemar Lawrence has taken to dying his hair red, showing up at training Tuesday with a fresh cut and a bold red hairdo.
“I’m really concerned overall with some hair choices within our team. Last game we had three blondes and a ginger,” Marsch said with a chuckle.
“Ginger,” is in reference to redheaded center back Tim Parker.
“Now we have a ginger, a red choice — we’ll accept the ginger. The other ones, we’re very concerned. Kemar’s red — I don’t know if he’s making a statement that New York is red….Red together…Red Bulls. Those are all the puns I have.”
Marsch walked away then his head perked up.“Incredible?”
Weak sauce from Marsch there at the end. Enough to make one incredulous.
RED BULLS NOTES
Left-back Connor Lade (sprained ankle) did some individual work on Tuesday with a member of the training staff. This included ball work and some sprinting. He could be back on the pitch soon, although Marsch cautioned that this week might be a bridge too far to see Lade as a part of the gameday roster.
Aurélien Collin did not train with the Red Bulls on Tuesday. Turns out that he has an injury from a pulled finger.
No, this story isn’t about breaking wind, although it quickly and inevitably went down that path.
“[Zlatan] Ibrahimović grabbed his finger,” Marsch said. “It’s twisted or something, so we had him evaluated by the doctor.”
The injury and the juvenile pulled finger joke of course made for some interesting banter with Marsch.
“I don’t know what to say about the pulled finger,” Marsch said.
“I hope his finger is OK. He’ll be training tomorrow, I think.”
It’s a story and a joke that might not pass away anytime soon. Certainly not a lot of hot air on this one.