HARRISON, N.J. — Several minutes after Ben Sweat’s header had propelled New York City FC into a two-goal lead over the host Red Bulls midway through the second half, the visiting supporters started a familiar chant:
“Dos a cero! Dos a cero!”
That phrase usually is reserved for when the U.S. national team defeats Mexico in Columbus, Ohio, but this time City’s fans finally had something to cheer about at Red Bull Arena: an away win.
After dropping four consecutive matches here, NYCFC recorded an emphatic 2-0 victory before 25,219 fans in the Hudson River Derby on Saturday.
“Finally, the three points is so good for us,” said captain David Villa as third-place City (9-5-3, 30 points) moved seven points clear of the fifth-place Red Bulls (7-8-2, 23) in the Eastern Conference.
“Probably our most complete performance in this stretch of the season,” goalkeeper Sean Johnson added.
It would be difficult to disagree with that. Despite playing without two of its designated players — midfielders Maxi Moralez (calf injury) and Andrea Pirlo (reserve) — City dominated from start to finish, winning its third consecutive league match.
It also was NYCFC’s second derby win against six losses. It had been outscored in the previous four games here, 9-2.
“Because it is here it makes it more special,” City coach Patrick Vieira said. “But it’s the three points and that’s the most important thing for me.”
Red Bulls coach Jesse Marsch, on the other hand, couldn’t believe what he saw.
“It’s a really bad feeling right now to have them celebrate on our home field,” he said.
He probably wasn’t feeling too good during the game, watching Jack Harrison give NYCFC its first-ever lead here with an arching 12-yard shot past goalkeeper Luis Robles in the 33rd minute. Sweat’s first MLS goal doubled the lead in the 65th minute as he headed in Alex Ring’s long free kick from a difficult angle on the left side.
Players followed Vieira’s game plan to perfection. They turned the tables on the Red Bulls, using the hosts’ strategy of high-pressuring the ball. They also shut down scoring champion Bradley Wright-Phillips (eight goals this season).
“When you look at all the games that we’ve played against the Red Bulls, they always wanted it more than us,” Vieira said. “I believe if you want to win football matches, you have to match the competitiveness of the opposing team. Today we did it brilliantly.”