Red Bulls, MLS, NYC FC, Hudson River Derby
(Photo by Danny Suriel - JSN)

Red Bulls Earn Dramatic Tie with NYCFC, Thanks to Late VAR Luck

As the New York Red Bulls and NYCFC players took the field at Red Bull Arena for the first Hudson River Derby of the 2021 MLS Season, a crowd of 16,000 strong provided an electric atmosphere. Red Bulls fans had a chance for their team to earn some pride back for having a 7-11-5 record with all the expectations of a successful Europa League manager, Gerhard Struber taking charge before the season began.

First Half: City Takes Lead

It was the Red Bulls who had more energy in the opening minutes. Striker Patryk Klimala dribbled down the left wing and cut a pass back to Omir Fernandez whose hard low shot was well taken but landed in the hands of back-up US Men’s national team goalkeeper Sean Johnson.

NYCFC had it’s first opportunity in the 28th minute when a cross found right-back Anton Tinnerholm open inside the box. Red Bulls goalkeeper Coronel made a kick-save on the Swede's timid right-footed effort.

In the 19th minute, NYCFC center back Alex Callens elbowed a Red Bulls player at midfield and was shown the first yellow card of the game.

However, NYCFC are in third place for a reason and that reason finally shone through in the 31st minute. The small and crafty center midfielder, Maxi Moralez pounced on a loose ball just outside the Red Bulls box and played Valentin Castellanos in on the left. The Spaniard struck a clean shot that found the back of the net to give NYCFC a 1-0 lead.

With the visitors in the driver’s seat, the game became feisty. Tinnerholm was shown his team’s second yellow of the game for accidentally kicking John Tolkin in the thigh.

Second Half Events

Christian Casseres Jr. had a woeful first half and was replaced by the better playmaker, Dru Yearwood by head coach Gerhard Struber at halftime. Omir Fernandez was subbed off for the more physically strong Andrew Gutman.

Shortly after the teams returned from halftime, the Red Bulls had a decent chance to score. Polish youth international, Klimala ripped a shot from a yard or two outside the box on the left side. His shot was not far away as Sean Johnson dove dramatically to try and stop the attempt that went a few yards wide to the right.

The Red Bulls next chance was again from Patryk Klimala. This time the Pole took a one-time curling effort with his right-foot from outside the box that bounced just wide of the right goalpost.

In the 72nd minute, NYCFC midfielder Keaton Parks slide-tackled Yearwood with his studs up and was shown a straight red card. Red Bulls now had their chance to level the score at home with their opponents shorthanded.

The tension at Red Bull Arena build to a crescendo, as the home team looked for a tying goal in the dying minutes of the game.

It took them all the way until the 98th minute, for some luck to come their way. Klimala was the most active offensive player for Red Bull in the second half. It was his hard right-footed shot that NYCFC’s Maxime Chanot slightly moved his left arm to block that led to the Red Bulls receiving a penalty kick.

There was never any doubt who would take the spot-kick, as Klimala walked up with three penalty goals to his name this season. The 23-year-old started his run-up, paused and shot the ball not in the corner but into the net as NYCFC goalkeeper Sean Johnson dove the wrong way.

The Red Bulls came away with a tie in the first Hudson River Derby match of the season, despite having to play from behind.

This Derby game was not short on physicality, as seven yellow cards were given out to both teams. City’s Keaton Parks and Chanot earned the two straight red cards of the match, the latter of which ruining a road victory for the visitors.

Struber gave detailed responses to reporters after the game, as always and discussed Patryk Klimala, who tied the game by scoring the penalty in a high-pressure situation.

“Patryk needed a little time to understand our style of play,” Struber said, “The finer points of our system, to create chances and score goals, was for him, a whole new world. He’s made big steps and right now he’s the player who we want to be our striker and in recent weeks he’s been very successful.”

For John Tolkin from Chatham, New Jersey this is his first season where he’s started consistently, taking a starting role in the midfield since July. Wednesday was his first taste of this rivalry and he discussed what it felt like to play professional derby game in his home state.

“Yeah, tackles were flying in, the intensity was high, it had everything we expected to be honest.” - John R. Tolkin

Looking forward to Saturday’s game, these two teams will meet again at Yankee Stadium in the Bronx. Struber discussed what his team need to do on Saturday to earn more points and keep their playoff hopes alive.

“When [NYCFC] have time and space it’s for us very difficult. It’s important for us to find the right transition moments for us. Today, we had good moments, but we need to be better.”

The Red Bulls will be looking for three points on Saturday when they travel to Yankee Stadium to face NYCFC in the second Hudson River Derby match of the 2021 season. Kick-off is scheduled for 8:00pm EST.

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Anthony graduated from Montclair State University, where he covered a variety of sports for three years. He co-hosts a sports-themed radio show on campus radio station, WMSC 90.3 FM, which was recently named #1 college radio station in the nation.