Sunday, May 19, 2024

NYCFC Outlast Red Bulls, Tie Them In Table


The scene at Citi Field. Photos by Jason Schott.

On Saturday night, in front of a crowd of 30,731 at Citi Field, the first time the Hudson River Derby was held at the ballpark, New York City Football Club beat the New York Red Bulls, 2-1, in a thriller.

In addition to the usual fanfare when these clubs have faced each other for ten seasons now, the implications in the standings were massive.

With the win, NYCFC improved to 7-2-5, with 23 points, and are now tied for third place with the Red Bulls, who fell to 6-5-3. 

This was NYCFC's third win in a row, actually within just eight days; sixth win in their last seven matches, and they have taken points out in eight of nine. It is quite a turnaround for NYCFC, who were in 12th place on April 13.

Just as they did in Wednesday night's win in Philadelphia, when they scored in the second minute, NYCFC scored extremely early in this one.

In the third minute, NYCFC began a march up the field that accelerated when Santiago Rodriguez fired a pass by Red Bulls midfielders near the center line that found Malachi Jones.

Going down the left side, Jones took it to the edge of the box when he fired it across to Hannes Wolf, who set himself on the wet turf, waited for a Red Bull defender to slide on by before he fired it into the right corner of the net to make it 1-0 NYCFC.

It stayed that way the length of an intense first half, until the Red Bulls broke through in extra time. Cameron Harper buried a shot from the right side just outside the box to tie it in the 46th minute, and make it 1-1 going into halftime.

NYCFC would retake the lead in the 64th minute when Mounsef Bakrar buried a shot from the top of the box, off a feed from Tayvon Gray and Hannes Wolf. 

This was Bakrar's first goal in an MLS game this season, and it was Gray's first assist of the season as well. and Since Wolf also got an assist on this goal, he now has two goals and two assists in the past three NYCFC matches.

NYCFC dominated this one, with 57.6 percent of possession to 42.4% for the Red Bulls. Shots were pretty much even, with the Red Bulls having 14 to NYCFC's 12, and each club had four shots on goal.

COACH'S COMMENTS: NYCFC Head Coach Nick Cushing spoke to the media after the game, and here's what he had to say:

On celebrating with Mounsef Bakrar after his first goal of the season: "He has worked incredibly hard to get to our football club and make the step into MLS. I watch him every day, working incredibly hard to refine his ability. Never once did I think he wouldn't score. Never once did I believe that he wasn't going to be a top striker at New York City FC for us. It's about making sure that we continue to work with Mounsef, whether he's on one goal or 10 goals in, to really hone how he can be a top number nine, because his potential is sky high. You see his physical potential; you see the runs he makes. You can see how he's learning the game. It was nice, but I almost just want to get back on the training field with him and tweak those little bits where he's running into the corner instead of staying central. Just [working] on those small details."

On Malachi Jones' performance: "His best attribute is that he's going to be a nightmare to play against. He's dynamic, he's quick, he's really agile with the ball, and a good dribbler. Of course, coming into the professional game, he's got a lot to learn. I don't worry about that based off his humility and his work ethic. He is a guy that is asking [questions] every day. He works me and the coaches incredibly hard because he wants film [training], he wants individual sessions, and he wants to work in the gym. He wants to know what he should eat for breakfast, he wants to know what the next thing is...that as a coach is a dream.  We got to make sure we just keep improving him, keep putting him in the [game squad]. I knew we would cause the Red Bulls problems tonight, because I knew the way they wanted to defend, and how progressive they want to be with their full backs and he had a great start to the game."

On the form of the team and being one of the most talked-about MLS teams: "I said to the boys before the game that it was going to be a tough one, and it was going to be a tight one, but that they should just take confidence from the form of the team. If you take confidence and do the same things that you've been doing, you've got a good chance to continue in the form. It's not about having a desperation to win, it's not about trying new things, it's not about being anxious. They just go play the way we've been playing and keep doing the right things. I think the physical ability of the team is far greater than it was last season. The performance team has done an incredible job. We're in form, but those dips are right around the corner in our league. It's tricky, right? You can go on a really good run and then all of a sudden you lose two or three, or you draw one and lose one, and you get punched in the face and all of a sudden you're trying to get that form back. We just got to stay honest as a group, stay humble, recover well and prepare for New England because it's going to be a really difficult away game at Gillette."

Next Up: NYCFC hits the road to take on the New England Revolution Saturday, May 25 at 7:30 p.m.

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