Patrick Vieira’s New York City FC were denied an MLS clean sweep against the New York Red Bulls as an entertaining derby ended 1-1 on Friday.
The final Hudson River derby of the regular season looked set to go the way of the boys in blue, just like their previous two league meetings this term.
Maxi Moralez’s smart finish put NYCFC ahead against the run of play, but the Red Bulls – who won their US Open Cup encounter – rallied manfully to claim a 1-1 draw thanks to substitute Gonzalo Veron’s penalty.
David Villa so nearly snatched the headlines, though, as an outrageous effort from the halfway line just went over – what would have been a fitting end to a day that began with a dream return to the Spain squad after a three-year absence.
While the match ended frantically, intensity failed to translate into quality and chances during a tense, end-to-end first half at Red Bull Arena.
The best attempt of the opening period came in stoppage time when Bradley Wright-Phillips, the Red Bulls’ hard-working frontman, slid through Michael Murillo to get away an effort that hit the post.
The NYCFC goal frame was shaking again within two minutes of the second half as Felipe took aim from the edge of the box, only to be denied by the crossbar.
The Red Bulls were furious not to have a penalty soon after – or the incident deemed worthy of video review – when Wright-Phillips went down under pressure.
Matters were compounded as slick interplay quickly gave City the lead. Smart play saw Villa play in Moralez, who provided a smart, low finish to the delight of the visiting supporters.
Red Bulls responded manfully and had a chance to level from the spot after captain Sacha Kljestan was caught in the box.
Veron, just brought off the bench, fired home the resulting penalty, leading to an entertaining final 20 minutes.
Both sides had attempts to win but Villa came closest, hitting an outrageous effort from just inside the Red Bulls’ half that had goalkeeper Luis Robles scrambling and landed on the roof of the net.