It was hard to believe Kaku was playing in his first Hudson River Derby, judging by how influential he was.
The 23-year-old Argentine was brilliant on both sides of the ball — with a goal and two assists in the first half and putting in a hard-working effort on the other side of the ball — before coming off for Alex Muyl in the 72nd minute.
“He gets the tactics more and more each game, he’s getting fitter and fitter each game. This guy is not afraid to put in work,” Tyler Adams said of Kaku. “He gets all the little details and there’s a reason that we were so keen on getting him at the beginning of the season because he gets the little nuances we have, the counter pressing, getting stuck in and winning battles. I’ve never seen an attacking mid put as many tackles in as him, he’s not afraid to be chippy and going after guys and when he gets the ball he’s megging people and playing balls.”
While it was his first Hudson River Derby, Kaku is no stranger to derby encounters, comparing his matches in Argentina with Atlético Huracán against San Lorenzo de Almagro.
“The thing is that the one in Argentina is more complicated because it’s a street derby and the people are crazy,” Kaku said. “I won it there many times and now here, so I am very happy.”
Kaku wasn’t the only Red Bull to get his first taste of the Hudson River Derby.
Tim Parker knew of the rivalry, especially from friends, but it “lived up to the hype” for the Hicksville, Long Island native.
“I think from the outside looking in, you don’t experience it first hand and you don’t realize how much goes into this, but it lives up the hype and I was really excited for the guys,” Parker said. “I think our start was great and obviously the result was fantastic.”
The same was true of Florian Valot, who previously watched the games as a Red Bulls II player in the United Soccer League. On Saturday he wasn’t just in the middle of the action, he also scored a pivotal goal — and did so in front of his parents, who flew in from France.
“It’s big,” Valot said. “I don’t realize until I go on the field that it’s derby day. I know it means a lot to the fans and it means a lot to us too. It was big, big to go 2-0 up also early in the game.”
BWP does it again
If there’s one constant in a derby that has had several twists and turns over the years, it’s that Bradley Wright-Phillips is going to find a way to score. The veteran forward netted his 11th all-time goal against NYCFC in his 10th regular-season meeting.
“When he came to the game today this morning and I saw him, he had a glow about him, like he wanted to play,” Red Bulls coach Jesse Marsch said. “He wanted to, again, show and compete and do everything it took to now find a way to win”
Wright-Phillips laughed about his “glow,” joking it’s probably because of his bald head. But he said his upbringing is where he learned to appreciate derbies.
“I think it’s just growing up in England. Derbies are everything,” Wright-Phillips said. “Obviously I’m an Arsenal supporter and Tottenham-Arsenal is a day that my house will be shut down and I’ll be watching that game and praying Arsenal wins. I try to take that feeling into the game.”
Villa comes up empty
A key to beating NYCFC in any game is limiting David Villa’s chances — and the Red Bulls managed to do that in a huge way Saturday by keeping the NYCFC captain without a shot.
Villa, who last weekend celebrated scoring his 400th — and 401st — goals for club and country, has scored in venues all around the world. But he has yet to score at Red Bull Arena in four all-time matches.
“Obviously, David Villa is a great striker and creates a lot of opportunities and is dangerous,” Parker said. “But when you can get him playing the way you want him to play, it plays to your advantage and you know you’re doing a good job.”