On a team that boasts two former World Cup champions and a grizzled international veteran, it took a 19-year-old kid to show New York City FC the way to its first Hudson River Derby win Sunday.
Demonstrating the poise of someone 10 years his senior, Jack Harrison scored the first goal and created David Villa’s insurance tally in a comprehensive 2-0 victory over the Red Bulls before 33,613 at Yankee Stadium.
City (7-5-6, 27 points) extended its win streak to three games and climbed into the Eastern Conference lead while avenging an embarrassing 7-0 loss on the very same turf May 21.
“It’s a great feeling, especially what happened last time,” Harrison said. “We were looking to redeem ourselves . . . We were more organized and more well-rounded as a team.”
The fourth-place Red Bulls (7-9-2, 23 points) won the first four derbies by a combined 14-2.
“They were the better team,” Red Bulls coach Jesse Marsch said. “Their whole team just seemed to pour their hearts out on the field.”
Perhaps none more than Harrison, a Manhattan resident born in England.
He was selected by Chicago as the first overall pick in this year’s MLS SuperDraft, but City wanted Harrison so badly that it traded allocation money and the fourth overall choice for the midfielder.
After being sidelined with a hip injury, Harrison made his pro debut against the Red Bulls in that May 21 match and hasn’t looked back since.
“Rookie doesn’t mean nothing for me,” City coach Patrick Vieira said. “What is important is talent. That is the reason why we went for him in the draft. He had something really special and something that we didn’t have in our squad.”
NYC FC was far from a one-man show Sunday. Its three Designated Players got into the act. Italy’s Andrea Pirlo, a member of the 2006 world champions, floated the corner that originated Harrison’s second goal of the season in the eighth minute. Harrison bolted into the penalty area unmarked on the right side, connecting from 10 yards.
“I just kind of hit it and hoped for the best,” Harrison said.
With the Red Bulls desperately seeking an equalizer in the 66th minute, English midfielder Frank Lampard, a veteran of World Cup and Euro campaigns, sprung Harrison down the right flank. Harrison placed a cross to David Villa. A member of Spain’s 2010 World Cup champs, Villa recorded his first derby goal and league-leading 12th past goalkeeper Luis Robles from 5 yards.
“An assist is just as good as a goal for me,” Harrison said. “I love assists. Just to see his face when he scored was great. It’s always a happy moment. It’s not every day you get to assist David Villa.”
Someday they might be saying the same thing about Jack Harrison.
“I still think the best is to come,” Vieira said.