NYCFC bracing for a surging Red Bulls team in Hudson River Derby

Sunday Night Football is coming to the Bronx.

Round 2 of the Hudson River Derby between the New York Red Bulls and New York City FC is heading to Yankee Stadium Sunday with the two rivals set for a 6 p.m. clash (TV – FS1).

NYCFC (11-4-7) played “nearly a perfect (game)” — according to Patrick Vieira — in Round 1 in June when the Boys in Blue won for the first time ever at Red Bull Arena, 2-0.

“We played a really good game,” Vieira said of the third-year MLS club’s first road win over their cross-river rivals, “I would say nearly a perfect one. If we want to win this game, we need to be at our very best.”

For the Red Bulls, (11-2-8) a win on Sunday night would push them ahead of NYCFC in the standings.

Here’s a look at both teams heading into Sunday’s showdown in the Bronx:

RED BULLS

The Red Bulls are surging after switching their formation to a three-man back line. They’ve outscored opponents, 17-4, in the last month since the switch and are now trailing third-place NYCFC by just two points in the Eastern Conference race.

The team is looking to channel the momentum from last Saturday’s 4-0 win over the Montreal Impact and add to their win streaks: they’ve won their last four games in league play, and their last three away games. In fact, the Red Bulls haven’t lost since that June 24 defeat to NYCFC in Harrison.

“The ability to lock down the wings has meant that teams have to come down the middle on us, then they have to do deal with our pressure,” Red Bulls’ head coach Jesse Marsch said of the new formation.

Marsch’s tactical move has made the whole team better, according to Red Bulls star Bradley Wright-Phillips.

“We weren’t getting shots off and now these guys are finding so much space. It has brought out the best in everyone,” Wright-Phillips said.

David Villa continues to be one of the top goal-scoring threats in Major League Soccer.

David Villa continues to be one of the top goal-scoring threats in Major League Soccer.

(Brad Penner/Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports)

While still leading the team in goals (11), Wright-Phillips has competition as Daniel Royer has scored six goals in the past five games and is now just one goal behind the team leader.

NYCFC

NYCFC is unbeaten in its last seven home games and has only lost once this year at Yankee Stadium (2-1 to Orlando City SC in April).

“You always want to play at home in front of your fans – it makes it a little easier coming into the game,” said NYCFC defender Ben Sweat. “I really think it’s going to give us the energy and the passion to come out on top.”

Sweat’s mindset is part of Vieira’s game plan for the Red Bulls; to play hard and treat it like “another game, the same mindset, same mentality.”

The team is third in the MLS in points with 37, but Vieira is concerned about the team’s consistency going into Sunday’s matchup. The team won a thriller against second-place Chicago two weeks ago with just 10 men on the field for a majority of the game, only to get thumped, 4-0, at Toronto last Sunday.

“As a team, we didn’t perform at the level that we have to,” Vieira said after the loss to Toronto. “The way we played against Chicago a man down and the way we played today, it’s difficult for me to accept our lack of consistency. We have a massive one next week and it’s going to be a derby, so we just have to take and look at what we can improve.”

Vieira knows his club is facing a team on the rise.

“We’re playing against a team who are having a really good period at the moment, they’ve played well, they’re scoring goals, so it’s going to be difficult, of course.”

The NYFC attack continues to be paced by Spanish great David Villa who is second in MLS with 14 goals.

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