Fifth place faced off against sixth as New York City Football Club took the short trip from the Bronx to Red Bulls Arena Sunday afternoon for the 15th New York Derby. Both New York teams desperately needed three points to keep in the hunt for a playoff spot. Before this match, NYRB led the series all-time with 8 wins, 4 losses and 2 draws.
Red Bulls head coach Chris Armas welcomed the return of Kaka and Michael Murillo, both after being suspended the previous two matches. Despite the Red Bulls controlling most of the early possession and nearly scoring from an Alex Muyl curler in the 3’, it was NYCFC who would strike the first blow. In the 7th minute, an unmarked Heber was on the receiving end of an Anton Tinnerholm cross and fired it past a helpless Luis Robles.
The game opened up after that and evolved into a very end to end affair, with both sides creating chances but failing to produce that next goal. The Red Bulls nearly answered back and leveled the match in the 22’ with a floating header by Brian White. Sean Johnson’s diving save prevented the ball from reaching its final destination. NYCFC had a few chances of their own to increase the lead, if it were not for an outstretched Robles defending his twine.
On the cusp of halftime, NYCFC’s Maxime Chanot impeded the path of a surging Brian White in the box and gave the Red’s a lifeline. The Red Bulls were awarded the penalty, Chanot was shown a yellow card and a minute later, Daniel Royer buried the ball in the top left corner. Both teams went into the locker room all level at one a piece.
When the second half began, it did not show any semblance to how the first had ended, with both teams struggling to get the ball out of their own midfields. The first fifteen minutes was an endurance test, a battle of wills. Both teams were bending, but who would break first?
Daniel Royer answered all that with his second goal of the game and his seventh goal of the season. It came in the 60th minute, courtesy of a perfectly placed cross from Cristian Cásseres Jr. which found the side of Royer’s head like a homing missile.
What led up to the goal was something of a flashpoint for the fixture. After Alexander Callens cleared the ball away, assistant referee Corey Rockwell signaled his flag for a corner kick. However, Red Bulls’ Marc Rzatkowski picked the ball up and took a quick throw-in, which directly led to the cross and goal. NYCFC’s head coach Domènec Torrent and his players were infuriated and demanded an explanation. After 8-9 minutes of heated discussion and confusion, Rockwell and referee Alan Kelly ruled that the goal stood. Their explanation was that whilst Rockwell had signaled for a corner kick, Kelley had overrode him and deemed it a throw-in instead. The chaos that ensued led to nine minutes of stoppage time but in the end, NYCFC could not find the tying goal.
Despite finishing with over fifty percent of the the possession, NYCFC heads back uptown with their third loss of the season. Meanwhile, NYRB jumps up to third place in Eastern Conference. After the match in the post game interview, Torrent expressed his frustration with the officiating and lack of clear communication.
“He decided the game,” Torrent said of Kelly, “I said to him, you decide the game and you know that. You are not brave. You decide the game.”