The MLS season is in full swing, but it’s not until this upcoming weekend that New York City FC and the New York Red Bulls face off in the first Hudson River Derby of the year. One of the league’s younger rivalries has proven a fierce and entertaining one, and this season we should be in store for a great contest.
After a slow start, NYCFC picked up steam. Forced to play a handful of home matches at Red Bull Arena, City struggled before finally finding their form. NYC went unbeaten for a full month and now look to finish the month strong to stay near the top of the East.
The Red Bulls haven’t had the stretch of positive results that their rivals have over the past months. After an alright start to the year, the Red Bulls haven’t won since early July when they beat Orlando 2-1.
Still, the talent is there for the Red Bulls and the heat of a rivalry match always brings out the best in their game. While their roster comes nowhere near the teams of years past that dominated the Derby and the league, this Red Bulls team is desperate to finally change the tune of the 2021 season. They’ve been a thorn in NYCFC’s side since their inaugural 2015 season and will look to upset the Pigeons in the first of three matchups this year.
For fans, the Derby always rekindles the city’s excitement for soccer as they bicker about New York being blue or red. Passionate fans from across the city and tri-state area are counting down to Saturday’s contest, hoping for another memorable rivalry match.
For many, it took just a taste of New York soccer to get them hooked.
Joe Franquinha, a Ridegwood resident and owner of Crest Hardware in Williamsburg, is a lifelong soccer player and co-owner of NYC Footy, one of the city’s most popular adult recreational leagues.
“I went to their first ever win at The Meadowlands when they were the Metrostars. 3 goals in 3 minutes. 3-3 tie and we won in (the former) MLS-style shootout. I was hooked. Through the good, bad, name changes, all of it,” Franquinha says.
Glendale native Steve Ferrezza sits on the board of the Empire Supporters Club, the Red Bulls supporters group that predates MLS itself. Last week, Ferrezza’s incredible streak of attending consecutive Red Bulls home and away matches (where fans were permitted) was snapped at 154. The Red Bulls game in Montreal on August 14 was the first the 31-year-old was unable to attend since October 1, 2016.
“I became a Red Bulls fan over a decade ago because they were my local club. Over the years I’ve made countless friends and met my wife while attending games. It’s a family and a passion for me,” says Ferrezza.
“For me, the rivalry is similar to the Yankees and the Mets. It might not be the biggest rivalry for Red Bull, DC will always come first, but it’s still fun to beat up on the other guy in town.”
While founded nearly 20 years after the Red Bulls, NYCFC has seen plenty of passion in their first six seasons of play.
“I became a fan of NYCFC after hearing of a brand new club to debut in Yankee Stadium and the first legitimate New York City MLS club,” said Vago Tzoros, a regular in the NYCFC supporters section.
“I got a ticket for the 1st game from a friend of mine, I was instantly hooked on the madness and excitement. I made it to four and a half straight seasons without missing a game before finally missing one because I was on vacation in Greece.”
“Supporting soccer clubs abroad was always fun, but living in the US, you always want a club you can identify with a call yours,” said Christopher Lopez, who grew up in Astoria and now coaches his own amateur adult team in Queens.
“NYCFC did that and allowed us to create something special and our own. Every player dreams to play for the club and I dream to one day manage. I’m starting by running my own club.”
Regardless of who you support, the energy the Derby brings is contagious. Both clubs are full of passionate and loving fans, and all are welcome in the stands.
“I’ve become lifelong friends with a few of the supporters. We share the same passion for the sport we love and come from different walks of life,” said Vago. “That’s what makes this city so great and unique!”
(Due to rain from storm Henri, the field at Red Bull Arena was waterlogged and deemed unplayable. The match was postponed after a lengthy weather delay and will be played later in the season. The two rivals will meet at Yankee Stadium on September 25th)