When referee Ted Unkel raised his red card for the second time on Wednesday night, sending a second New York City FC player to an early shower, the final New York derby of the season looked destined to go to the New York Red Bulls.
NYCFC didn't let it happen though, showing the kind of fight and toughness it didn't show in early-season demolitions at the hands of those same Red Bulls. There would be no blowout on Wednesday night, as a raucous crowd of 30,139 urged their team to keep fighting. The fight they showed helped them overcome the two-man disadvantage and hold on for a 1-1 result that felt much better than a typical home draw.
It also felt far less satisfying than a road point in a derby should for the Red Bulls, who were in control and took a 1-0 lead when the match was 11 against 11, but struggled to create chances after the red cards came.
As a result they wound up settling for a point, and missing a chance to pull into a tie for first place in the Eastern Conference with current leader Atlanta United.
"Last week we had a little bit of a comeback and that feels more like a win," Red Bulls midfielder Tyler Adams told Goal. "This one, being up two men, feels a bit more like a loss. You come into this game and every three points are on your mind in a derby match, nothing less than that, so we kind of let ourselves down a little bit.
"We created maybe two good chances from the possession that we had, but obviously not enough," Adams said. "We didn't have enough ideas in the final third. We were forcing passes and getting lured into a game that they wanted and it benefited them in the end. They defended well in that nine-man block but, at the end of the day, it has to be better from us, for sure."
NYCFC came into the match already dealing with some key injuries to starters Jesus Medina and Alexander Callens, among others, so when newly acquired forward Eloi Amagat drew a deserved red card for a studs-up challenge on Marc Rzatkowski, it put the home team in an even more precarious position in a match it was already trailing.
Earlier in the year NYCFC might have folded under those circumstances, but on Wednesday they responded with a strong second half, equalizing through David Villa just seven minutes after halftime.
"I'm very happy with them because in the second half we recovered things, some very good things for us," Torrent said. "We were able to commit as a team and fight in a match we couldn't surrender in, much less at home in a derby."
NYCFC is unbeaten in two New York derbies under Torrent, and while there are similarities between the team Patrick Vieira coached and the one forming under Torrent, one difference is the current NYCFC squad has an edge and level of toughness that was lacking in past years, and earlier this season.
"They have a little bit more bite to them," Adams said. "They get two red cards that they never would have done in the past. They're making tackles all over the field and they're way more combative. In the end, they've added players that help that, for sure."
One thing that hasn't changed for NYCFC is the team's ability to play well at home. On Wednesday, even down two men, NYCFC appeared to feed off the energy of the Yankee Stadium crowd, which helped the home team salvage something from a match that seemed destined to be a loss when Ebenezer Ofori was issued the second red card of the night.
"Tonight, I think the fans were the first to believe in a comeback and we simply followed them," Villa said. "We are very proud to have the fans we have, we know they’ll be there in the good times as well as the bad times.
"I think they’ll be happy with the team effort today. Obviously they wanted all three points like we did, but again I think they’ll be very happy with the team effort."