New York Red Bulls head coach Gerhard Struber is preparing for an “absolute war” with neighbors New York City FC.
Red Bulls had gone seven games without a win but academy product John Tolkin ended that poor run of form with a first-half finish against Columbus Crew.
Back-to-back victories for the hosts would take them within two points of the Eastern Conference playoff places with a game in hand and Struber is ready for his men to go to battle.
“We make the rules in our stadium,” Struber started as he previewed the next clash. “We set the rhythm, it’s very, very important for us to be very close together.
“We must have every player at their border and (our style) gives the team the wind behind their backs. It’s going to be an absolute war.
“We have three home games, and I think this is always helpful, to play at home with our supporters.”
New York City look set to secure a playoff place for the sixth straight year, though fellow top-seven side Philadelphia Union did inflict their first loss since July 18 with a 1-0 win last time out.
“We have a game on Saturday and we have to get the workload right for our players to keep their energy,” head coach Ronny Deila responded when asked about his changes last game.
“We want to be as ready as possible for Saturday. We have brought on a lot of new players together and a lot of new relations, it is about taking step-by-step and getting that right.”
The New York derby usually favors the hosts, though the visitors were the last to win on away turf, securing a 2-0 victory at the Red Bull Arena in 2017.
PLAYERS TO WATCH
New York Red Bulls – Fabio
Fabio found Tolkin for the winning goal against the Crew, recording his team-leading seventh assist of the term – no other Red Bulls star has provided more than four.
New York City FC – Jesus Medina
Jesus Medina has gone five games without a goal, but still sits second among club scoring charts with seven in 19 games. He makes up a dangerous front line with Valentin Castellano and Ismael Tajouri – the trio collecting 22 goals between them.
KEY OPTA FACTS
·The Red Bulls have won just four of the last 12 Hudson River Derbies (D2 L6) after winning the first four. Still, the Red Bulls have won the last three meetings between the teams at Red Bull Arena, only losing one of the eight all-time home matches against NYCFC (W6 D1 L1).
·The Red Bulls ended a three-match home winless run with a 1-0 victory over Columbus on Wednesday. The Red Bulls have lost only two home matches this season (W5 D2), losing to the current first place team in the East (New England) and second place in the West (Sporting Kansas City).
·New York City FC’s winless run on the road reached five games after a 1-0 loss at the Union on Wednesday (D2 L3). This is NYCFC’s longest run without a road win since going nine straight (D3 L6, including playoffs) from August 2018 to April 2019.
·Fabio recorded his team-leading seventh assist setting up John Tolkin’s match-winning goal against Columbus. Tolkin is the fifth different Red Bulls player to score off a Fabio assist this season.
·Valentin Castellanos has attempted a league-high 86 shots, including 38 on target, also most in MLS this season. Castellanos attempted three shots in NYCFC’s loss to the Union, the league-leading 17th time he’s taken three or more shots in a match this season. No other player has done so more than 12 times.