New York City FC continue their 2023 Leagues Cup campaign with a knockout game on the other side of the Hudson River: NYCFC will take on the New Jersey Red Bulls tomorrow night at Red Bull Arena in the Leagues Cup Round of 32. In this NYCFC vs Red Bulls edition of Oppo Research, we look at an inconsistent Red Bulls that cannot string together more than two consecutive wins, but who own a dominant record against NYCFC in New Jersey.
1. Red Bulls are inconsistent
New Jersey’s season started poorly, with just one win heading into the Hudson River Derby matchup in May. NYCFC lost that game despite the Red Bulls looking vulnerable after firing former head coach Gerhard Stuber. Since then, the team have improved under former assistant coach Troy Lesesne, but they continue to struggle.
They went toe-to-toe with league-best FC Cincinnati in the US Open Cup, but then they lost at home to Orlando City three goals to nothing. New Jersey defeated the New England Revolution at home in early July but then lost their next two games.
It’s one step forward, two steps back for this team. That’s why they currently sit in 11th place in the Eastern Conference, four points off the playoff zone.
2. But Red Bull Arena is safe territory
Even if New Jersey are having a disappointing season and sit below the playoff zone, they perform well at Red Bull Arena. The Red Bulls have just one win on the road, and five wins at home: They have taken down strong Eastern Conference sides including the Columbus Crew, New England Revolution, and Atlanta United at Red Bull Arena this season.
Red Bulls 2023 Record, All Competitions
Don’t forget, New Jersey also own an overall record of 11 wins, three draws, and two losses against New York City in Harrison.
3. Frankie Amaya is dominant in midfield
Midfielder Frankie Amaya is one of the best players for the Red Bulls this season, a force in the middle of the pitch. Amaya has a team-leading three goals in MLS play, and has provided two assists in 12 starts. His accurate pass rate of 79.4% is the third-highest in the team for players who have played at least five games this season. The midfielder doesn’t get many chances, but he can be clinical in front of goal:
4. Dante Vanzeir is starting to live up to his billing
Dante Vanzeir is New Jersey’s biggest signing in club history, but he started off the season slow. Things picked up recently for the Designated Player: The former Union SG striker who scored 43 goals in his time in the Belgian Pro League netted two goals against Atlético San Luis in the Leagues Cup group stage on Sunday, including the stoppage-time game-winner.
Vanzeir will look to keep that momentum going on Thursday.
5. The Red Bulls can’t fill Red Bull Arena
The Red Bulls continue to struggle to get fans into their stadium: In the team’s most recent game against San Luis, there were just 10,421 fans in the seats despite it being a beautiful Sunday evening. It wasn’t the smallest attendance figure that night – that honor belongs to so-sad-let’s-not-tell-anyone gate for Club Tijuana and Querétaro FC facing off at Subaru Park – but it was significantly lower than what you saw elsewhere in Leagues Cup action.
Leagues Cup Attendance, July 30 Group Stage Matches
Seattle Sounders vs CF Monterrey
Toronto FC vs FC Atlas
San Jose Earthquakes vs Tigres UNAL
LA Galaxy vs Vancouver Whitecaps
Dignity Health Sports Park
Red Bulls vs Atlético San Luis
Red Bull Arena
Club Tijuana vs Querétaro FC
Red Bull Arena has a capacity of 25,000 but the announced average gate this season is 17,302 — although the crowds in attendance look to be much smaller. That number is just the 24th-highest in MLS.
Is it the quality of the play on the field? NYCFC have a comparable record but pull in close to 21,000 per game. Is it the game day experience? Red Bull Arena is admittedly a nice stadium.
Or is it transportation? It might be just 9.4 miles from Harrison to Manhattan, but parking is a nightmare, and public transportation is poor. On Sunday, PATH service to Harrison was so spotty that fans had to wait 35 minutes between trains.