Here are the 10 things we learned from week ten of the Major League Soccer season.
1. The first New York derby lives up to the hype
MLS has had its fair share of contrived, manufactured, entirely disappointing rivalries. This New York Red Bulls – New York City FC thing isn’t going to be one of them.
The first contest had pretty much everything – it was a seesaw affair that saw an early goal, late drama, seven yellows, one red, an extraordinarily high tempo, a sold-out and loud Red Bull Arena, and intrigue at every turn.
The Matt Miziga sending off in the 35th minute saved the game, in many respects, because the Red Bulls were running riot against an NYCFC team that was playing their worst soccer since March. But 11 v. 10, it was a fair fight, and we got one of the best spectacles in this young MLS season.
This rivalry has huge potential. Before the year is out, it should take its place behind Seattle – Portland as MLS’ second best derby. The next edition will be in front of 43,000 strong at Yankee Stadium on June 28th. I can’t wait.
2. NYCFC’s stars fall flat
NYCFC didn’t go down with a whimper after conceding a second goal up a man in the second half, and it was down to Jason Kreis’ slightly desperate, slightly admirable move to yank both Mix Diskerud and David Villa consecutively with about twenty-five minutes to go in the game.
Villa’s replacement, Patrick Mullins, scored within seconds of coming on off of a buildup that involved Diskerud’s replacement, Kwadwo Poku. The messages that Kreis sent with his starting lineup – like benching Jed Brovsky and Mehdi Ballouchy – were more subtle, but signs that Kreis has realized he is in a real dog-fight. The pressure is beginning to tell.
This NYCFC team needs its big players to play like their capable of playing because when they don’t, we get what we saw on Sunday night: Ned Gravaboy running around trying to be Wayne Rooney. The role players on this NYCFC team can’t carry Villa and Diskerud. They have to carry the role players.
Sacha Kljestan and Bradley Wright-Phillips were both absolutely magnificent, and while Felipe, Dax McCarty, and Lloyd Sam were all solid, it was Jesse Marsch’s leading men that won him the game. That’s how it goes in rivalries. The stars are often decisive.