As careers change and families start, many New Yorkers will jump across the river in search of more space on the New Jersey side. This Sunday’s Hudson Derby featuring the area’s two MLS sides will be no different.
For the first time this year, the Hudson Derby moves across the river to Red Bull Arena, this after the first two meetings of 2016 were held at Yankee Stadium. And while playing in the venerated stadium is great publicity for New York City F.C. and the ballpark can host huge crowds, the stadium is a bit of a bandbox when it comes to size. It is popularly considered to be the smallest pitch in the league.
Conversely on Sunday, the New York Red Bulls host NYCFC at beautiful Red Bull Arena — a stadium built for soccer and only soccer has one of the largest fields in the league. And it might just benefit a visiting team that features the likes of David Villa, Andrea Pirlo, Frank Lampard and exciting rookie Jack Harrison.
“I think a big part of the project for this weekend will be keeping track of Villa, limiting Pirlo’s time and keeping track of Lampard and Lampard’s ability to join in late and Harrison’s ability to put himself on the win in 1 v. 1 situations,” Red Bulls head coach Jesse Marsch said on Thursday following training.
“So we’ll adjust certain things tactically. But we’re also going to stick to who we are. Especially at home we can put this game on our terms and dictate things through our pressure, through our counter-pressure, through our possession and through creating chances. I expect this to be a game played on our terms.”
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The claimed size of the Yankee Stadium field is 110 yards by 70 yards but that is likely being generous by all accounts. Yankee Stadium for soccer is a tight fit and it plays as such.
Matches look like ping pong and possession as well as flowing play is limited. And homefield advantage is limited for NYCFC, a team that likes to spread the ball around but finds it difficult to do so in a stadium built for home runs and not goals. NYCFC is 6-3-1 on the road this year, good enough for first place in the Eastern Conference. But they are a disappointing 3-3-5 at Yankee Stadium this season as their style doesn’t fit their grounds.
The reason is that on the road on larger fields, their style of play can flow freely. At Red Bull Arena, they can potentially do just that.
Red Bulls captain Dax McCarty likened the Yankee Stadium field to playing a game of basketball. He wasn’t alone in his assessment as his teammates seem excited at finally playing their rivals on a real soccer field, not a tight space partially covered by a baseball infield.
“It’s better for us because playing in Yankee Stadium is very complicated. They are a very good team that likes to play with the ball so they’re going to have more space to play with it so it’s good for them to so we have to be prepared,” Red Bulls central defender Aurélien Collin said.
“But you know, being home and playing [with] a full stadium, we’re going to have all the fans behind us. It’s going to be amazing.”