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What’s the importance of an NYCFC win in Sunday’s New York Derby?

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In coach speak, teams simply play the teams on their schedule because that’s what has been shown to them.

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When New York City FC and the New York Red Bulls meet on Sunday afternoon at Yankee Stadium though, it won’t be just another regular match.

In fact, when these two New York/New Jersey rivals meet on the pitch it’s never “just another regular match.”

2017 marks NYCFC’s third season in Major League Soccer, and it’s fair to say that the club has made tremendous strides forward during that short span in the league. However, one struggle that has remained constant for manager Patrick Vieira and his predecessor Jason Kreis has been the Bronx side’s record against the Red Bulls.

Entering Sunday’s match, the Red Bulls hold a 6-2 winning edge over NYCFC in all competitions, while outscoring Vieira’s men, 19-7 during those encounters.

Those statistics are a bit deceiving though.

Outside of the match that all NYCFC supporters want to permanently remove from their brains — the 7-0 Red Bulls victory at Yankee Stadium last May — six of the other seven matches between these two Eastern Conference foes have been decided by two goals or less.

NYCFC secured a 2-0 win when the two clubs met over a month ago at Red Bull Arena, which proved to be a comprehensive and overall impressive victory for Vieira’s men, who had never won at the Harrison stadium prior to that June 24 afternoon.

Now, there’s another target that NYCFC needs to hit.

A victory on Sunday would do two things for Vieira and Co…

  1. It would give NYCFC the season series against the Red Bulls prior to the two sides meeting again on August 25.
  2. It would further prove that this NYCFC is a legitimate East contender despite battling the injury bug, which includes the absences of Maxime Chanot, Ronald Matarrita and Miguel Camargo (who is out for the season).

The good news for the Bronx side is that they will likely have two key attackers back in the fold for Sunday’s match. Khiry Shelton practiced with the first team this week for the first time since April, while Rodney Wallace could be fit for the Red Bulls encounter after sitting out since a Gold Cup injury with Costa Rica left him sidelined.

Another victory against Red Bulls is going to require another tough performance from NYCFC, particularly given the current form of Jesse Marsch’s men.

The Red Bulls have won four straight matches, and their shift to three in the back has really seemed to open up the flow of their midfield and attack with players like Sean Davis and Tyler Adams having more freedom to move forward with the ball.

[ MORE: Orlando City signs third DP, Yoshi Yotun from Malmo ]

NYCFC has never scored more than two goals against the Red Bulls, which is something that must change at Yankee Stadium. Captain David Villa will be called upon to break his drought against his side’s cross-river rival, with the 35-year-old boasting just one finish against the Red Bulls in eight matches.

MLS Snapshot: New York City FC 2-1 New England Revolution (video)

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The game in 100 words (or less): For nearly 75 minutes, NYCFC couldn’t muster up any chances in the attacking third, but thankfully their captain did what he does best. David Villa scored his 19th goal of the season on Sunday night to pull out a 2-1 win against the New England Revolution, but it was rookie Jonathan Lewis that notched the winner. The visitors took the lead 20 minutes prior after Sean Johnson spilled a shot in front of his own goal, allowing Teal Bunbury to pounce on the rebound. NYCFC now moves to within four points of Eastern Conference leaders Toronto FC with nine matches remaining in the regular season.

Three four moments that mattered

16′ — Harrison breaks ankles, but Villa can’t finish — This might be the only time all see you’ll see David Villa miss a chance like this…

38′ — Johnson gets a finger tip to Rowe’s blast — Sean Johnson had no work to do in the first half, at least until Kelyn Rowe decided to rip a shot from distance just before halftime.

57′ — Johnson’s error grants Bunbury, Revs the lead — Look away, NYCFC fans.

77′ — Villa find the back of the net — When you need a goal, who you gonna call? That’s right. David Villa. The NYCFC captain is now up to 19 this season.

[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s MLS coverageStandings | Stats | Schedule ]

Man of the match: David Villa

Goalscorers: Teal Bunbury (57′), David Villa (77′), Jonathan Lewis (90+4′)

Honoring victims of attacks, Barcelona wins league opener

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BARCELONA, Spain (AP) Wearing shirts honoring victims of the recent attacks in Spain, Barcelona opened its Spanish league season with a comfortable 2-0 win over Real Betis on Sunday.

[ MORE: Neymar double helps PSG cruise past Toulouse ]

Players had the word “Barcelona” instead of their names on the back of their shirts, and the Catalan hashtag “TOTSSOMBARCELONA” (We are all Barcelona) was on display around the Camp Nou stadium. The message was also shown on the stadium’s large screens, as well as on many banners carried by fans.

An emotional minute’s silence was held before the game as the music of Catalan cellist Pau Casals played in the background.

Before the minute was up, the more than 55,000 fans at the stadium broke into a round of applause and began chanting “No tinc por” (I’m not afraid), a chant which has become a symbol of people’s reactions to the attacks that killed 14 people and injured more than 120 in Barcelona and the nearby seaside resort of Cambrils.

Extra security was implemented in and around Camp Nou.

There was a minute’s silence before every Spanish league match this weekend.

Without Neymar and the injured Luis Suarez, Barcelona got off to a winning start in the league after consecutive losses to rival Real Madrid in the Spanish Super Cup final.

It scored two goals three minutes apart near the end of the first half – an own-goal by Betis defender Alin Tosca and a close-range shot by Sergi Roberto. Both goals came after plays started by Gerard Deulofeu, one of the players expected to try to replace Neymar after his world record transfer to Paris Saint-Germain.

“We lost depth with Neymar’s departure and we have to find a way to overcome that,” Barcelona coach Ernesto Valverde said.

Lionel Messi looked lively but wasn’t able to score his 350th goal in La Liga. He came close, though, being denied by the woodwork three different times.

AP Sports Writer Tales Azzoni contributed to this report.

More AP Spanish soccer coverage: https://apnews.com/tag/LaLiga

Brighton breaks club record with signing of winger Jose Izquierdo

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Brighton hasn’t gotten off to the ideal start in its debut season in the Premier League, but a key reinforcement is on the way.

[ MORE: Chelsea tops Spurs at Wembley behind Alonso’s brace ]

After starting the 2017/18 campaign with back-to-back defeats, the Seagulls announced on Sunday the signing of Colombian winger Jose Izquierdo from Club Brugge in Belgium for a record fee.

The 25-year-old spent three seasons in Belgium’s top flight and totaled 38 goals across all competitions for Brugge, prior to making the move to England.

Additionally, Izquierdo has worked his way into the Colombia squad as of late, and scored his first international goal for his country in June 2017 in a friendly against Cameroon.

MLS Follow Live — NYCFC hosts Revs, Minnesota meets Sounders

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Only two matches will feature on the MLS docket Sunday evening, but luckily two of the league’s most exciting teams will take to the pitch.

[ MORE: Toronto tops Fire as East leaders reach 50 points on season ]

First, New York City FC will attempt to continue its ascent up the Eastern Conference ladder when they host Kei Kamara and the New England Revolution.

In the night cap, the Seattle Sounders look to extend their unbeaten streak to nine matches when they welcome newcomers Minnesota United to CenturyLink Field.

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Here’s the schedule and kick-off times for Sunday’s two MLS fixtures.

New York City FC vs. New England Revolution — 6 p.m. ET
Seattle Sounders vs. Minnesota United — 10 p.m. ET