New York City FC will try to get over the sting of their elimination from the U.S. Open Cup when they cross the Hudson River to face the rival New York Red Bulls on Sunday evening.
It was only a week ago that NYCFC (7-2-8, 29 points) were owners of the league's longest active unbeaten run, having played 12 matches without a defeat before falling 1-0 at home to the Portland Timbers last Sunday at Yankee Stadium.
They tried to rebound from that during Wednesday's Open Cup tilt at Orlando City. There, they were arguably the sharper team during 120 minutes of regulation and overtime of a quarterfinal that finished 1-1, before Orlando triumphed on penalty kicks.
NYCFC will likely have starting goalkeeper Sean Johnson back Sunday at Red Bull Arena after he spent the last month with the U.S. national team in Gold Cup competition. Johnson says the key to success is simply not letting those recent slip-ups change the mental approach within the team.
"All the little things matter," Johnson said. "This is a group that's been very much together over the past month, two months of the season. We went on a really good stretch there where we didn't lose any games. I think that's the mentality you have to have, especially going into a tough atmosphere like Red Bull."
Meanwhile, the Red Bulls (8-7-4, 28 points) will be playing in their second rivalry match of sorts in as many weeks after earning a 3-3 draw against Atlanta United in a wild rematch of last year's Eastern Conference final Sunday at Mercedes-Benz Stadium.
Defense has been the Red Bulls' weakness of late, conceding 11 goals in their last four matches. Like Johnson for NYCFC, Red Bulls defender Aaron Long returns from U.S. national team play and could be joined by backline mate Tim Parker, who has missed two games with an ankle injury.
For Long, there's little chance of a hangover after losing the Gold Cup final to Mexico.
"You know you're going to be up for it, you know they're going to be up for it, you know the fans are going to be invested in it," Long said. "It's a game you can't wait to play."
--Field Level Media