By James Nalton.
New York City 0, New York Red Bulls 0.
Neither of the Major League Soccer teams with New York in their name have been very good this season. A scrappy Hudson River Derby meeting at Yankee Stadium further confirmed this badness.
Rather than give an indication that one of these teams might actually deserve a place in the playoffs, this game showed why they are currently outside that post-season qualification line.
Both franchises have been regulars in the playoffs for much of their existence, which makes their current seasons all the more disappointing. At this point, they feel like wasted seasons.
Since progressing to the semifinal in a Supporters’ Shield winning season in 2018, the Red Bulls have not pulled up any trees even when making the post-season. Nevertheless, there is at least some hope in playoff qualification, even if it has not lasted long.
Meanwhile, across the Hudson River, if New York City fails to qualify for the playoffs this season, it would be the first time it has done so since its expansion year in 2015. Watching this franchise as it is now, it is easy to forget it won the MLS Cup as recently as 2021.
Amid mostly clunky, unattractive play, the performance of Hassan Ndam stood out for the New York Red Bulls. The Cameroonian defender was more often than not in the right place at the right time, and if he wasn’t, or if errors were made, he had the ability to get there soon enough.
His 6-foot-4 frame came in handy in the tight spaces, stopping both passes and players from getting through. He was assisted on one occasion by an excellent tracking back from midfielder Frankie Amaya, whose smothering, blocking tackle stopped Andres Perea just as he was about to shoot from a dangerous position.
Elias Manoel showed occasional promise in attack for the Red Bulls, seeing one shot saved by Matt Freese and another drift just wide.
New York City defender Thiago Martins also deserves a mention for a vital intervention ahead of Manoel towards the end of the second half.
It was a game of such last-ditch tackles and untidy play that gave defences such as Martins and Ndam chances to intervene.
NYCFC’s woes were exacerbated by an injury to Keaton Parks, who left the field in the first half with what looked like a sprained ankle after landing awkwardly following a mid-air challenge.
The home team did pose some threat to the opposition’s goal. Substitute Julián Fernández sent a shot just wide and made Carlos Coronel save another.
There were other half chances, but striker Monsef Bakrar was too often offside to make anything meaningful of his opportunities. One chance when he was onside was skied over the bar.
At the other end, Omir Fernandez forced a great save from Freese which saw the NYC goalkeeper produce the individual, highlight reel moment of the game.
It was a game severely lacking highlights, though, managing to be somehow both frantic and dull.
The MLS Season Pass commentators lived in hope of late drama, but most Apple TV viewers will likely have turned over to watch Atlanta vs. Inter Miami (even minus Messi) by that time.
Those in the stadium might have wished they planned their day around NY/NJ Gotham’s meeting with Washington Spirit in the NWSL later in the day.
This might not be the game that decides where these teams finish in the regular season standings, but it was certainly a game that summed up why neither is in a playoff place.
There wasn’t even much derby tension, as that kind of atmosphere only tends to be most prominent when one or both teams are actually good.
Nothing was learned from this Hudson River Derby in which the men’s major league soccer sides from the New York area were confirmed as bad in 2023.