When the final whistle blew on the long awaited, much hyped initial meeting of the New York Red Bulls and New York City FC, one thing was clear: even with a handicap, the Red Bulls were the better side. Despite playing down a man for nearly an hour, the Red Bulls were dominant at home, earning a 2-1 win in front of a sold out crowd of 25,217 in Harrison, handing City their fourth straight loss.

"I thought we grew so much today and it was a character win and I'm proud of our team,” gushed Red Bulls coach Jesse Marsch after the match. "I'm proud of our team probably more now than ever.”

NYCFC coach Jason Kreis gamely tried to show optimism. "I will continue to try to take every ounce of positivity that I can and keep moving the group forward. At some point a bounce or two will go our way.”

With an amazing atmosphere from both sets of supporters, including a giant tifo from the South Ward mocking NYCFC as being "20 years late and a stadium short", the comparisons between players of both sides painted a stark narrative.

Out wide, the Red Bulls' Lloyd Sam—who has quietly become one of the best wingers in the league for the last two years—faced off with RJ Allen, a Monmouth graduate who hadn’t played professionally since 2013. Allen was sorely outmatched in his first start, and when he allowed Sam to dance around him in the fourth minute, a cross found Bradley Wright-Phillips, who swiveled to blast a shot in from close range.

Wright-Phillips may not have the megawatt star power of NYCFC’s striker David Villa, but BWP’s two goals (he added to the home side’s lead by finishing off a devastating counter early in the second half) matched Villa’s total goal production for the season to date. (He nearly completed a hat trick but was stopped on a breakaway by goalkeeper Josh Saunders.) Villa seemed roundly frustrated—by his teammates, by the referee, and by Jason Kreis's decision to sub him off in the 68th minute.

"I don't want to be the star—I just want a championship ring,” remarked the characteristically humble Wright-Phillips.

"We're in a bad spell at the moment and we have to continue to work hard,” said Villa through a translator. "We’ve hit rock bottom, and we need to work harder and look forward to our next game.” (Villa and Kreis both played down any tension about the substitution, with Kreis explaining it was about managing his minutes in his return from nagging injury problems.)

The midfield triangle of Red Bulls players who had been so dominant this year—Dax McCarty, Felipe Martins, and Sacha Kljestan—brought their usual control to the game. That formation was tested when center back Matt Miazga saw a 36th minute red card for his second rash tackle of the evening, but even in conceding the possession battle, they kept City’s spine, including USMNT midfielder Mix Diskerud, from gathering much in the way of an attack until late in the match. Kwadwo Poku (who had replaced Diskerud) and RJ Allen combined to feed a cross into Patrick Mullins (who had replaced Villa) to pull a goal back with fifteen minutes left in the match.

McCarty was open about what the atmosphere brought to the match. "We tried to downplay the rivalry aspect of it but whenever a team comes and brings two thousand fans, and they are loud and you hear them, you always want to win and you always want to shut them up, that's obvious. No matter how much people want to try to say this isn't a rivalry, you could feel that it was a really big game and it was an important game that both teams wanted to win.”

Mix Diskerud was not made available to media after the match - probably a smart decision after Jason Kreis has declared that Mix "was just not great” on the night.

The result leaves the Red Bulls ten points clear of their metro area rivals, with a game in hand. The Red Bulls next travel to Frisco, TX to face the best of the Western Conference, a red hot FC Dallas. The win certainly lifted spirits following last week's loss to New England, particularly Sacha Kljestan’s. "It's awesome to win this game, it feels really good. You never want to lose against your rival and for it to end up like that and to walk off the field feeling good, that's a good moment.”

NYCFC will get yet another chance to snap their poor run of form as they host the Chicago Fire on Friday night. While the players and staff continue to preach positivity and that strong performances are coming from their squad, the poor results may have finally started to sink in. Asked if the quick turnaround was good, goalkeeper Josh Saunders audibly sighed and said “We keep saying that, next week, next week. But yeah."

Speaking of form…

COSMOS STAY UNBEATEN WITH 4-2 WIN OVER EDMONTON

Playing in a Mother’s Day matinee, the Cosmos kept up their excellent form with their fourth win of the season, downing FC Edmonton with a 4-2 result. They remain the only unbeaten team in NASL and sit points clear at the top of the table with four games to play in the Spring Season.

Captain and new father Carlos Mendes provided two of the goals, opening the scoring in the second minute on a rebound and a header in the 36th. Raul finished a sequence that saw the Cosmos hit the crossbar twice, and Lucky Mkosana would beat the Edmonton goalkeeper in the second half to pad the lead. Edmonton stayed within touching distance at times, with Tomi Ameobi converting an early penalty and Ritchie Jones knocking in a late consolation goal, but the Cosmos would not be denied their third consecutive home win.

The Cosmos travel to WakeMed Soccer Park to take on the Carolina Railhawks on the 16th.