Electric energy and high intensity highlighted NYCFC II’s matchup against the New Jersey Red Bulls II on Sunday night, as the Young Pigeons comfortably dispatched their rivals from across the Hudson, 3-1, in front of a boisterous crowd at Belson Stadium in Queens.
Free-flowing first half
The action started quickly, as both sides began the match in high-pressing and high-intensity formations. But NYCFC II struck first, as midfielder Piero Elias was able to get on the end of the lobbed throw-in before calmly sticking a shot past RB II keeper AJ Marcussi after just five minutes of play. The Queens native and former Queensboro FC midfielder was a thorn in the side of the Red Bulls all night, acting as a driving force behind nearly all of NYCFC II’s attacks. When asked about his first goal, Elias was quick to say that “We’ve practiced that situation every day.”
Following a penalty miss for the Red Bulls, and a disallowed second goal for Elias, it was JJ Jimenez’s turn to get in on the action. In the 23rd minute, the forward towered over his defender following a corner, before sending a glancing header goalwards, beyond the near post. The atmosphere at Belson Stadium was rowdy, and the Red Bulls were stunned.
Soon after the impressive header from Jimenez, the Red Bulls would answer with a goal of their own. Frank Ssebufu, the man responsible for the Red Bull’s woeful penalty miss early on, fired home from close range to give the Red Bulls a lifeline, in what would prove to be their only goal in the contest. The first half would conclude with quick counterattacks from both sides, as each team seemed desperate to score before the halftime whistle blew.
Scrappy second half: Red Bulls with 24 fouls
As the second half began, the mood on the pitch took a turn. The bad blood between both clubs manifest itself as players flew into challenges left, right, and center. Overall, Sunday night’s contest saw 38 fouls between the two sides, with the Red Bulls guilty of 24 of their own. The fouls, coupled with the four yellow cards issued, exemplified how serious the Hudson River Derby is, no matter if it’s MLS or MLS NEXT Pro. Manager Matt Pilkington was quoted after the game as saying, “The guys have worked hard all week. Obviously, the first derby we lost, so there was a bit of added pressure and excitement. But, all week they have been up for it, and they showed today that they were up for the fight.”
Though the Red Bulls forced NYCFC II shot-stopper Alexander Yagudayev into a few impressive saves, the hosts would have the final say. A Marcussi foul inside his own penalty area gave Elias the opportunity to seal the win for NYCFC II in the final minutes, which he took with authority. Elation filled the stadium as the final whistle blew, as both the players and fans relished the marquee win. Speaking to the media after full-time, Elias was candid when asked how he felt after scoring his first career NYCFC II goals, saying “It feels great, and it hit differently because it was against our rivals.” The young midfielder also credited his coaches for giving him the tools to help lead the NYCFC II attacks, saying “We just trained for these scenarios every day in practice, and it worked out perfectly today.”
Can They Keep Up This Impressive Form?
Sunday night’s victory keeps NYCFC II in sixth place in the Eastern Conference but narrows the gap between themselves and the top four. This was the squad’s third straight win, and their fourth in five matches, with their only loss coming in the reverse of this fixture, having lost to the Red Bulls away, 2-0. As the squad prepares to take on the New England Revolution II on Wednesday, June 14, don’t be surprised to see first-team staff surveying the squad for call-ups, as this MLS NEXT Pro outfit may have the answers to NYCFC II’s severe depth dilemma in the attack.