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.

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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.