By Peter Schwartz
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While the Red Bulls already know NYCFC and the Philadelphia Union very well, they’re going to get to know them even better by the end of June.
The Red Bulls’ 1-0 win over their cross-river rivals Wednesday night at Red Bull Arena in the fourth round of the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup propelled them into a round-of-16 match against Philly on June 28 in Harrison.
But wait, there’s more.
Between now and then, the Red Bulls will visit the Union on Sunday in an MLS regular season match and then NYCFC returns to Harrison on June 24 for the initial New York Derby regular season contest.
That’s a lot of soccer against arch-rivals in a short amount of time. It could be a good thing as the Red Bulls look to get on a roll both in MLS play and in the fight for Open Cup.
“It’s going to be a month of a lot of rivalries,” Red Bulls midfielder Alex Muyl told WFAN.com. “Each game is going to carry over into the next.”
New York began the stretch on a strong note on Wednesday night as second-half sub Daniel Royer scored in the 67th minute, helping the Red Bulls to continue their dominance of the boys from the Bronx. The Red Bulls have now beaten NYCFC six out of seven times since the rivalry began in 2015.
It was a weird atmosphere with just 11,311 fans on hand for a game that was obviously not on the original schedule. Despite the small gathering, the supporters for both teams made plenty of noise.
“It wasn’t what we’re used to when we play them because we’re used to a packed house,” said Muyl, a 23-year-old homegrown player from New York City who came up through the Red Bulls Academy. “But I think the atmosphere, for the people who did show up, was really amazing. The stadium was jumping even though only the lower bowl was full.”
For Muyl, Wednesday night’s selection to the Red Bulls starting XI was important for him in his development. He has played in 14 regular season matches with nine starts this season, and has notched a couple of goals. While he said he feels very comfortable coming off the bench, his play against NYCFC could lead to a bigger role as the season progresses.
“(Wednesday) night was a good chance for me,” said Muyl, a former star at Georgetown. “I felt like I was able to do well. For me, this season I’ve been growing a lot already regardless of how much I’m playing. It’s a long season and there are a lot of ups and downs. I just want to keep grinding and try and help the team win as much as possible.”
With Sunday’s game at Philadelphia, the Red Bulls hope to start stringing together some MLS regular season wins. On May 5 at Talen Energy Stadium, the Red Bulls topped the Union 3-0.
Philly has also knocked New York out of the last two U.S. Open Cup tournaments, something the Red Bulls won’t soon easily forget.
“We want to pay them back a little bit,” Muyl said. “I think it’s going to be a really intense month of grinding it out and each game is going to have its own emotions.”
At 6-7-2 with 20 points, the Red Bulls find themselves tied with New England in the Eastern Conference, but because they have more wins than the Revolution they would occupy the final playoff spot if the season ended today.
It has been an up-and-down season so far for the Red Bulls, but they’re in the middle of an inspirational part of the schedule that could be the impetus to kick their game into a higher gear.
Don’t forget to follow Pete on Twitter @pschwartzcbsfan. You can also follow @Alexmuyl19 and @NewYorkRedBulls