The Hudson River Derby Will Be Amongst the Most Intense Rivalries in MLS

New York City FC will eventually supplant D.C. United as Red Bull New York’s most bitter rival
by Nick Chavez   |   Thursday, May 07, 2015

Blue City – column on New York City FC (NYCFC) & the NYC area soccer scene.

Well, would ya look at the calendar!

After two years of waiting, New York Red Bulls will finally face their beloved “Blue Team” in the “House that Taurine built” of Harrison, New Jersey this Sunday, marking the historic first installment of what’s being dubbed the “Hudson River Derby.” 

Joking aside, I firmly believe this will eventually become one of the most fiery and authentic rivalries in all of Major League Soccer, second only perhaps to Seattle-Portland. And I’m apparently not the only guy that thinks that. 

“For me, the passion that will be in the stadium (for Sunday’s RBNY v. NYCFC match), on the field, the excitement for the game I think will be at a huge level — maybe even more so than anything we have seen [in MLS],” RBNY coach Jesse Marsch told Jason Davis of Soccer Morning this week.

“For New York, for both clubs, it’s huge.”

I couldn’t agree more, Mr. Marsch, and I’d even go as far as to declare that I fully expect New York City FC to quickly supplant D.C. United as Red Bull’s most bitter rival in the coming years, and I’ll give you some reasons why. 

First of all, put yourselves in the average, dedicated, long-suffering Red Bulls supporter’s mindset. 

Here’s a guy (or gal) who, potentially, has been desperately waiting up to nearly 20 years for the Red Bulls to be relevant in the New York sports market. They’ve endured playing in an NFL stadium with grid-iron lines. They’ve braved the dark days of MLS when a new season often wasn’t guaranteed, when MLS and its fans were widely ridiculed. 

They had to swallow the very emasculating pill of having their beloved “MetroStars” branding to be erased from existence and unceremoniously paved over with the logo of Red Bull Energy Drink in 2006. This, understandably, was an intolerable slight for many fans, causing some to abandon the club for good. 

Those who’ve endured even this humiliation waited almost two decades to finally win the club’s only piece of major silverware, the Supporter’s Shield, which many fans in MLS still disparage as unimportant (I am not one of them, I think it deserves much more prestige). And, of course, even being one of MLS’s original franchises, the New York Red Bulls have infamously never won the big one --- The MLS Cup. 

Looking through this miserable lens, you begin to understand the type of negative and pessimistic energy that might be festering in the minds of these Red Bull devotees. And, to their credit, many have endured it all.

Enter New York City FC. A new football club backed by the wealth and prestige of international football powerhouse Manchester City and New York City’s flagship sports institution, the iconic New York Yankees. They even get to play their home matches in the Yankees’s famous Cathedral which, despite all of the ridicule of playing in a baseball stadium, has thus far been much more embraced by New York soccer fans than expected. All of this in a famous and convenient destination which, of course… is actually in New York City.

Yes, much to RBNY’s fans chagrin, New York City FC has been billed as New York City’s true team. Its image is for the City, by the City, representing the 5 boroughs. The club has had unprecedented media coverage and attention for an MLS side representing New York up to this point. It is claiming the great City of New York from the outset, while Red Bull fans did all of the hard work paving the way for MLS to be at least as relevant in the City as possible, as minimal as their impact was, and now they have seemingly been shoved out of the City they thought they represented. 

By the looks of it, Red Bull are already in the shadows. New York City FC has been on a dismal skid lately, winless in 7 straight matches, with 6 losses. While Red Bull have been one of the strongest sides in MLS this season, undefeated until its last match. The team from Harrison, New Jersey is finally showing the type of form and consistency that is making the club one of the early favorites to finally win that elusive first MLS Cup. But, who in New York City notices? Who in NYC cares? If anyone’s talking MLS in the city, it’s about New York City FC. 

NYCFC is still averaging considerably more fans in attendance at Yankee Stadium [a venue that most in the soccer media (::cough:: not me ::cough::) thought would prove to be a fiasco] than the in-form Red Bulls in their beautiful soccer specific stadium even with this very poor run of results. 

How could this be? I thought New York City only loved winners? 

Imagine what will happen when New York City FC actually starts winning (and they will). How might this encouraging attendance and fan activation improve when Frank Lampard and that 3rd Designated Player arrives? And when the club inevitably signs more global stars in the future to replace the original DPs?

And how much relevance can the Red Bulls possibly scrape together in the City when New York City FC finally builds that much sought after soccer specific stadium in the 5 Boroughs? 

Why, indeed, would most New York City soccer fans just starting to get into MLS choose to support a team named and branded after an energy drink (which requires them to take the PATH train to a place which most New Yorkers seem to otherwise have no interest in ever visiting just to see them live) rather than an ambitious, star-studded team actually playing in the City, named after the very city itself?

New York City FC’s entire mission is to bring as many fans from the NY metro area into the blue fold, and that also should be Red Bull New York’s objective. NYCFC is looking to take the food off of Red Bull’s plate. It is already starting to drink RBNY’s milkshake. It is already overshadowing the old guard from New Jersey where it really matters; in the big City itself. 

How the hell can D.C. United compete with that from a rivalry standpoint? How can most rivalries in Major League Soccer, under scrutiny? Red Bull fans will be consumed with resentment and jealousy, of feeling wrongly done by New York City soccer fans who have or will reject their club, and already have a strong resentment for the considerable number of “traitors” that were once Red Bull faithful, only to abandon the Harrison outfit to help start this new club of their own in their City. 

The bad blood won’t just pump one way, either. Early New York City FC supporters will remember the constant jabs, cheap shots, and abuse from Red Bull fans directed at founding NYCFC fans who only wanted to establish and support an MLS team in their city. NYCFC fans won’t so easily forget their 2 years of being RBNY’s favorite target. 

Without a doubt, Sunday at Red Bull Arena will stage the first battle of what will be a very authentic and intense rivalry in Major League Soccer. The only thing “manufactured” about this rivalry will be the predictably feigned indifference by some Red Bull fans. 

And as dismal of a picture as I have sometimes painted for the Red Bulls, NYCFC’s arrival is still a very positive development for them because, before now, they barely even existed in the New York sports media and fan’s psyche. Now, at least, they’ll have the distinction of being the arch-rival of New York City’s very own football club in a new era of MLS. And that sort of thing could get your name in the papers. 


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This is the longest-running column focused on the only team representing the 5 Boroughs in world football: New York City FC. Long may its supporters continue to make history.