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New order in NY? A closer look at Red Bulls, NYCFC

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It’s a rivalry that has already captivated Major League Soccer in just two short seasons, but with the 2017 campaign getting set to begin, it’s the first time that New York City FC and the New York Red Bulls are on a level playing field.

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Prior to entering MLS two seasons ago, NYCFC had lofty expectations largely due to the fact that the club plays at Yankee Stadium in the Bronx, a venue that has become synonymous with winning over the years.

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The club has yet to have a great deal of success against their cross-river rivals, but 2017 could be the year that NYCFC breaks that trend.

While the Red Bulls have managed to keep a large portion of its squad together for yet another season, the club did undergo several disturbances during the offseason that could halt the squad’s success.

Below, PST makes the case for both New York-based teams and why each club will finish above the other in the final standings.

Reasons NYCFC will be better than Red Bulls

Two words; David Villa. The way things are shaping up, the former Barcelona attacker could go down as one of the best Designated Player in MLS history. In two seasons with NYCFC, Villa has scored 41 goals while adding 12 assists for the Eastern Conference side, and has additionally served as the club’s captain.

Manager Patrick Vieira made a promise heading into the offseason and he stuck to his word. The Frenchman sought a younger roster, and that’s exactly what he got. While there was a decent amount of turnover within the NYCFC squad this winter, losing the likes of Frank Lampard, Andoni Iraola and others, the club has found suitable options to fill those holes with younger selections.

Among these names are midfielders Miguel Camargo and Alex Ring, as well as attacking Designated Player Maxi Moralez, who joins the team from Liga MX side Club Leon.

It’s unclear who the starting goalkeeper will be ahead of the 2017 season, but Vieira has two pretty solid options at his disposal. Eirik Johansen showed well towards the tail end of the 2016 campaign, and his 6-foot-7 stature is surely beneficial. Meanwhile, adding a savvy, talented veteran like Sean Johnson gives NYCFC a capable first-team choice who could be the NYCFC keeper for years to come.

Villa has been the clear catalyst for the NYCFC attack in the club’s first two years, but the club has a plethora of youthful options that could very well explode this season. Jack Harrison is clearly the first name that comes to mind after taking the league by storm at times during his rookie campaign, while Khiry Shelton enters his third season in the Bronx.

The club also added reigning USL MVP Sean Okoli, first round SuperDraft pick Jonathan Lewis while bringing back Tommy McNamara, who has scored some of the team’s most brilliant goals in its brief history.

Although struggled at times to find their footing at home last season, NYCFC boasted the best road record in MLS at 7-7-3. NYCFC racked up 24 points on the road a season ago, and if the team can finish around .500 away from Yankee Stadium again in 2017 then Vieira’s group will be in a good position.

Reasons Red Bulls will be better than NYCFC

The most compelling argument the Red Bulls make is their brief history against NYCFC. Over six matches in the past two seasons, Jesse Marsch’s side has won five encounters against the Bronx side by a combined score of 18 to 5. Although their May 2016 meeting resulted in a lopsided 7-0 Red Bulls victory, the overall difference in form has been resounding when the two clubs get together.

At the center of it all has been goalscoring extraordinaire Bradley Wright-Phillips, who has notched eight finishes in the six clashes. Wright-Phillips is the reigning MLS Golden Boot winner, and the Englishman has shown no signs of slowing down after already bagging a goal for the Red Bulls in the CONCACAF Champions League.

Additionally, playmaker Sacha Kljestan is coming off of his most productive season ever in MLS after bagging six goals and leading the league in assists with 20. Kljestan has been a driving force for Marsch’s squad since joining the team in 2015, and his quick distribution fits the Red Bulls’ style of play.

The biggest storyline of the entire offseason was likely Dax McCarty’s blockbuster move to the Chicago Fire, and normally it would have been a major discussion because of the player that McCarty is, but luckily for the Red Bulls they have a suitable replacement.

Sean Davis has emerged over the past several seasons as a strong role player in the central midfield, but with McCarty gone, it’s his and Felipe’s midfield to control. Davis has shown he has the size, physicality and awareness to distribute the ball well enough to fill the void, and he’s a significantly younger option for Marsch.

The Red Bulls have benefitted from having a top-notch defense over recent years, but they also boast an elite goalkeeper. Since 2013, Luis Robles has started every single MLS match for the Harrison side, while making 400 regular season saves in that span. Not only is Robles durable, but he is the emotional leader of the backline, which may not appear on a stat sheet but is certainly a valuable asset to have.

Finally, Red Bull Arena may not always draw the crowds that Yankee Stadium does, but it’s been a fortress for the Red Bulls since the club adopted it as its home. Since 2012, the club has won 10 or more matches at home, including finishing with a record of 13-2-2 a season ago at the venue, which accounted for 41 of the team’s 57 total points.

Hernandez, Araujo score in 1st half, Mexico beats Costa Rica

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MEXICO CITY (AP) Javier Hernandez and Nestor Araujo scored in the first half, and Mexico overcame the absence of half a dozen players to beat Costa Rica 2-0 on Friday night in a World Cup qualifying match.

Hernandez scored on a cross from Carlos Vela to open the score in the seventh and Araujo added a goal on a header in the 45th.

[ USMNT: Recap & videoPlayer ratings ]

Hernandez scored his 46th goal with the Mexican team and tied Jared Borgetti as the all-time leading scorer.

With the win, Mexico remains undefeated and has seven points after three rounds to take sole command in the six-nation tournament. Costa Rica stays on six points and is second and Panama is third with four.

The top three teams qualified for the Russia 2018 World Cup.

Mexico beat Costa Rica for the first time since September 11, 2012, when they prevailed 1-0.

Running Away With It

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Christian Pulisic scored and played a part in three other goals as the United States rained goals down on Honduras in a 6-0 win at Avaya Stadium in San Jose early Saturday morning.

Clint Dempsey scored two goals, and Michael Bradley and Sebastian Lletget also scored as the U.S. moved into fourth place in CONCACAF World Cup qualifying. Their next match is Tuesday in Panama.

[ MORE: Player ratings | Three things ]

The United States men’s national team’s bid to recover their 2018 World Cup hopes got off to a flying start.

Sloppy Honduran defending caused a turnover outside the 18, and Jozy Altidore played Christian Pulisic in on goal. Keeper Donis Escober got a piece of Pulisic’s shot, but no one followed Lletget to the back post and the ex-West Ham and current LA Galaxy man quickly put the Yanks up 1-0.

The Yanks didn’t stop, and Lletget drew a yellow card when he beat Ever Alvarado down the right flank and forced a take down from the Honduran defender.

Alberth Elis slipped John Brooks’ mark, and the Houston Dynamo man turned to fire on goal. Tim Howard was well positioned to scoop it up.

Lletget turned out to be injured by the Alvarado foul, and Bruce Arena turned to Alejandro Bedoya in the 17th minute.

Geoff Cameron was given a yellow card in the 25th minute for a foul on Roger Espinoza. That gave a free kick to Honduras from 30 yards out, and Romell Quioto fired right at Tim Howard.

Then it was the captain who doubled the lead, as Honduras inexplicably gave him the room to walk across the arc of the 18 to rip a shot across goal. 2-0.

It was Clint Dempsey’s turn in the 33rd minute, after an otherworldly scooped pass from Pulisic.

What. A. Pass. Kid.

Honduras then took a bigger hit: the loss of star attacker Romell Quioto (Houston Dynamo) to an apparent shoulder injury.

Brooks bailed out an out-of-position Gonzalez just before halftime to keep the lead 3-0.

The Yanks needed 15 seconds to make it 4-0, with Dempsey winning a 50-50 tussle and finding Altidore for a flick to Pulisic. He netted his fourth USMNT goal. He’s 18.

Pulisic then won a free kick 25 yards out from goal by embellishing a foul, and Dempsey’s free kick tricked Escober. 6-0. For real.

A scary moment late as a dazed and wobbly John Brooks was forced off despite no apparent injury. Fox’s Jenny Taft said he was dehydrated, which is a relief.

LINEUP

USMNT: Howard; Villafana, Gonzalez, Brooks (Ream, 70′), Cameron (Zusi, 58′); Bradley, Lletget (Bedoya, 18′), Nagbe; Pulisic, Dempsey, Altidore.

Goals: Lletget (5′), Bradley (27′), Dempsey (33′, 49′, 54′), Pulisic (46′)

 

Player ratings from USMNT’s pounding of Honduras

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Battered. Throttled. Eviscerated.

Pick your verb of dominance, the United States likely fit it well in a 6-0 destruction of Honduras at Avaya Stadium in San Jose.

[ MORE: Recap + video | Three things ]

The win boosts the U.S. in World Cup qualifying after their 0-2 start, but how did the individuals fare? Obviously well.

Starting XI

Tim Howard — 7 — The team just feels in a safer place with the veteran back there. If the U.S. goes to the 2018 World Cup, Howard remains their No. 1 (and there probably never should have been a question. Sorry Brad).

Jorge Villafana — 7 — Tidy passing and a low-risk game from the Santos Laguna man.

John Brooks (Off 70′) — 7 — An early error before recovering to be his usual free-clearing, athletic self. Scary injury took him out late, as he looked dazed. Fox’s Jenny Taft said he was dehydrated, which is a relief.

Omar Gonzalez — 5  — He wasn’t bad, but Gonzalez is still a positional question mark. Bailed out a couple times by Brooks.

Geoff Cameron (Off 59′) — 6 — Out of position and a bit hobbled, he wasn’t at his best.

Michael Bradley — 7 — One of his better USMNT games in a long time.

Sebastian Lletget (Off 17′) — 8 — Scored, then got hurt on a roasting run down the right.

Darlington Nagbe — 6 — One or two electric moments in the first half, but overall a quiet enough night for the Timbers man.

Christian Pulisic — 9 — Hard to not to hand the kid a 10. He’s quite frankly the most exciting American talent in the history of the program.

Clint Dempsey — 10 — Along with Howard, the sort of player you knew would make sure this game ended with three points. The fact that he nabbed three goals, too, is just a bonus.

Jozy Altidore — 7  — Pretty darn good night holding up the ball, and passed as well as ever, but did he drop a bit too deep too often? The answer is probably, “Who cares? They won 6-0, dude.”

Subs

Alejandro Bedoya (On 18′)  — 6 — Typical high energy, space eating job in the middle of the park from the Union man.

Graham Zusi (On 58′)  — 6 — Good late clearance preserved the shutout.

Tim Ream (On 70′)  — 6 — Interesting to note that Arena went to him over Walker Zimmerman or Matt Besler.

Three things to take away from USMNT 6-0 Honduras

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The United States men’s national team pulled a Leicester City.

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That’s a joke with truth wrapped around it, because the Yanks have had plenty of time and even a pair of friendlies to respond from the firing of Jurgen Klinsmann.

But in their first serious match without their old coach, the U.S. looked a team renewed and unleashed. Now the Americans may find themselves back in an automatic World Cup qualifying spot with a win on Tuesday in Panama.

Things change.

Vindicated

U.S. Soccer president Sunil Gulati and all of the USMNT players waited months and months to get the chance to answer their critics following a pair of embarrassing losses to open the final round of World Cup qualifying.

Sure, having Clint Dempsey, Geoff Cameron, and Tim Howard back helped a whole lot, and the seasoning Christian Pulisic is getting at Borussia Dortmund is unquestionably good for an 18-year-old.

But there’s little doubt Michael Bradley and Co. were fired up to silence their critics. Whether they admit it or not, this is a bunch that was stung by those who said they failed their old coach.

Most expected the U.S. to get a point or better against Honduras, but to do it the way they did is an unexpected bonus. A win in Panama on Tuesday would boost them into the Top Three.

And don’t worry, the old boss was pleased for his former charges.


The future is now…

I Tweeted the following after a late second half pass from Pulisic, and there was little disagreement.

Pulisic won’t be credited with an assist for his shot which rebounded to Sebastian Lletget for the opener, but he will walk away with his fourth international goal and two proper assists.

One was an absurd scoop to Clint Dempsey’s chest, and the other was a long avenue that shouldn’t have existed. Still, Pulisic found that street and provided an absolutely dynamic force all over the park.

There have been U.S. teens at big European clubs, and U.S. teens who’ve made impacts on the national team, but never both at the same time and never both at this level. Pulisic is for real, and finding his ceiling is an adventure we’re all undertaking with great enjoyment.


…But the legends sure helped

Clint Dempsey and Tim Howard will go down as two of the most important players in United States men’s national team history.

Actually, they may be duking it out for Nos. 1 and 2 when it’s all said and done.

Dempsey’s hat trick was his career in a nutshell. The first saw him body off a defender while collecting a Pulisic pass off his chest, then lashing a shot with power despite said defender dragging him down.

The second was a burst of speed to run onto Pulisic’s through ball and classic calm in the face of an onrushing keeper, holding onto the ball before sliding it home from an acute angle.

The third was this free kick. A bit aided by goalkeeper Donis Escober, but such is life.

And don’t sleep on Howard’s early performance as Honduras tried to find some sort of foothold in the match. Always well-positioned, the team just feels safer with the Colorado Rapids man between the sticks.