May 5, 2018; Harrison, NJ, USA; New York Red Bulls midfielder Alejandro Romero Kaku Gamarra (10) celebrates his goal against New York City FC with New York Red Bulls midfielder Florian Valot (22) during the first half at Red Bull Arena. Mandatory Credit: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports
Red Bulls coach Jesse Marsch said it was simple — win the midfield, win the game. He told reporters that in the lead up to the Hudson River Derby, and he told his team the same in the locker room.
Tyler Adams took that challenge personally.
“It was a really big task on the day,” Adams said. “When those guys have a lot of time, any good player on the day is going to create something so trying to get around [Alex] Ring, [Yangel] Herrera and [Maxi] Moralez was a huge task.”
The Red Bulls’ dominance in the center of the park was the epicenter of a thorough 4-0 victory over Eastern Conference No. 1 NYCFC (6-2-2, 20 points) in front of an announced crowd of 25,219 at Red Bull Arena.
It was the most lopsided victory for the Red Bulls (5-3-0, 15 points) since that infamous 7-0 drubbing at Yankee Stadium in 2016.
“It was a good performance all around, especially the first half,” Bradley Wright-Phillips said. “The second half was always going to be difficult. They have to come out and try and put pressure on us. They did, but the defense were good today. The team really wanted a clean sheet and we got that.”
Before the smoke cleared from the elaborate pregame ceremony, the Red Bulls already had a two-goal lead.
Adams intercepted a ball in midfield and played to Sean Davis, whose floated pass put Wright-Phillips in on goal. The forward took the ball off his chest and put his shot on frame with NYCFC goalkeeper Sean Johnson diving to his left to parry away.
Kaku won a race to the rebound and tapped in from the corner of the six-yard box to give the Red Bulls a 1-0 lead 66 seconds after kickoff.
Wright-Phillips netted his 11th goal in 10 regular-season meetings against NYCFC in the 35th minute, latching onto a Kaku cross that split the visitors’ defense and putting a downward header in from the edge of the six-yard box to send the Red Bulls into halftime with a commanding 3-0 lead.
As for Marsch’s challenge to his central midfield trio? They answered the bell in a big way. The Red Bulls completely stifled NYCFC’s midfielders, all but shutting off any service to David Villa.
When NYCFC were forced to bypass lines and thump long balls to Villa, the Red Bulls’ central defense pairing of Tim Parker and Aaron Long snuffed those out. The NYCFC captain had just 34 touches — the least of any NYCFC starter — and had just one chance created, failing to register a shot before being subbed off in the 66th minute for Rodney Wallace.
“In all honesty, we did a fantastic job,” Kaku said. “Regarding details, I think we were very superior to them because we were on top of things in every moment because we knew they have great players. I think we did a great match and the key for the victory was the constant pressure we did.”
The game, for NYCFC was a “collective nightmare” for NYCFC coach Patrick Vieira.
“If I had the chance to change all 10 players on the field, I was going to do it at halftime,” Vieira said. “I wasn’t really happy with every single player on the field.”
Derrick Etienne Jr. put the finishing touches on the derby drubbing by taking a touch around Johnson and finishing with his left foot in the 79th minute.
“Our guys were on top of the game,” Marsch said. “The whole first half was very good. …but the part that was the best is that the concentration to still stick to the game plan and see out the game the way we wanted to was great.”
Listen: Red Bulls coach Jesse Marsch’s entire post-match press conference