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Red Bulls again beat NYCFC to bring rivals even on points in standings

Red Bulls head coach Gerhard Struber, center right,

Red Bulls head coach Gerhard Struber, center right, congratulates his players after they scored their second goal against Inter Miami during the first half of an MLS soccer match Friday, Sept. 17, 2021, in Fort Lauderdale, Fla. Credit: AP/Rebecca Blackwell

This season's Hudson River Derby matches settled the annual local debate with a clear result — New York certainly is red this year.

The Red Bulls scored early against New York City FC and mostly cruised to a 1-0 victory Sunday at Red Bull Arena, giving them seven points from three matches between the rivals over the last month. But there’s been a side effect to the Red Bulls’ dominance in the series this year — NYCFC’s campaign is completely unsettled.

City entered last month’s first derby match in third place in the Eastern Conference with their sights set higher in the standings. The Red Bulls were struggling to stay afloat in 11th place. Yet after Sunday’s result, NYCFC sits in eighth place in the Eastern Conference, one spot below the playoff line. The Red Bulls remain in ninth, behind NYCFC only on goal differential as the clubs own identical 11-1-7 records (40 points) with five games to play.

Unbeaten in seven matches, the Red Bulls’ sudden rise has kept alive their hopes of extending their playoff streak to 12 consecutive seasons in the postseason. NYCFC is winless in its last five matches. City’s collapse has put it in jeopardy of missing the playoffs for the first time since its inaugural 2015 campaign.

 

The slide has coincided with a goal drought that reached 425 minutes, with NYCFC last scoring in the first derby match on Sept. 22. On Sunday, it was the Red Bulls’ trademark high press creating difficulty, with NYCFC’s five-man defense often left struggling to play through the back. At match’s end, City had just four shots on target despite more than 62% of possession.

Cristian Cásseres Jr. had the lone goal of the game, giving the Red Bulls the lead in the third minute. An RBNY free kick into the box was headed and deflected before finding its way behind the defense to a sliding Casseres, who was able to finish past NYCFC keeper Sean Johnson.

Red Bulls keeper Carlos Coronel made two saves for his 11th shutout of the season. NYCFC’s best chance to equalize came in stoppage time of the first half. Tayvon Gray, now the first-choice right back following Anton Tinnerholm’s ruptured Achilles, delivered a perfect cross to Santiago Rodriguez, but the Uruguayan’s volley was met by a charging Coronel and sent out of play.

Malte Amundsen, who entered as substitute late in the second half, nearly leveled the score with a volley from outside the box in the 82nd minute, but his shot slammed off the crossbar. Maxi Moralez nearly caught RBNY with a shot in the 86th minute, only for Coronel to read a deflection well for a diving stop to preserve the clean sheet and send NYCFC back across the river with the defeat.

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