New York Red Bulls forward Mike Grella drawing on Leeds United experiences for New York City FC clash

Statue Of Liberty

The 28-year-old's side take on Manchester City's sister club at Yankee Stadium on Sunday in the Hudson River derby.

New York Red Bulls forward Mike Grella has told how he believes his time playing in England will stand him in good stead for Sunday’s derby match against New York City FC.

Grella, 28, turned down the chance to start his professional career in MLS back in 2009 in order to explore European opportunities, before soon catching on with then-League One side Leeds United.

The former US Under-20 international would go on to score five goals in 40 total appearances during his time at Elland Road but was let go in the summer of 2011 after falling out of first-team contention, and failed to impress during subsequent spells at Brentford, Bury and Scunthorpe United, respectively.

However, he looks to have found a home at his local Red Bulls since heading back to the States, having joined the club ahead of the 2015 MLS season following a successful pre-season trial and netted five times in 15 games so far – including the game-winner in Wednesday night’s 1-0 home victory over Real Salt Lake.

 2015 MLS GoalsTotal ShotsAssistsTotal Key PassesPassing AccuracyTotal CrossesHeaders WonHeader SuccessTotal DribblesDribble SuccessAppearancesMins Played
Mike Grella 4 21 1 10 75.1% 16 20 39.2% 27 59.3% 14 918

Now preparing to take on crosstown rivals NYCFC this weekend, the New York-native is aiming to draw on experiences like Leeds’ shock 1-0 FA Cup win at Manchester United in 2010 when he takes to the field at Yankee Stadium.

“Derbies all over Europe, in England, are highly anticipated, the energy is different,” Grella told “Everything is raised just a little bit more, the anticipation, the energy, the game – everything is just great with derbies.

“I happened to be a part of the Leeds United-Manchester United derby. I was part of Leeds United, we beat them in the FA Cup in Old Trafford in front of 90,000. That was an unbelievable rivalry that goes way back.

“And now to be part of this rivalry that’s brand new, so young, is just as fantastic. There’s a changed feeling before the match and during the match, and we started the rivalry on the right foot and hopefully continue that.”

The Red Bulls beat expansion franchise NYCFC 2-1 in their first-ever meeting last month but have won just one of six league games since, while their rivals are on a three-match winning streak.

Nevertheless, Grella, who has been earning plaudits in recent weeks for his highlight reel-filled performances, believes that the mid-week result will give his side the edge going into the clash.

“It’s such a huge game, such a huge rivalry, getting the win right before that game, it’s really important,” he added. “It gives us a huge boost on offense, and it’s important to say that we never really wavered. It’s great to get the win, it’s a great feeling, but we would have prepared the same either way, it’s such a big match.”

The Red Bulls sit three points above NYCFC in the Eastern Conference with a game in hand after taking 20 points from their first 15 games, with Grella taking up former captain and talisman Thierry Henry’s old left flank role following the 37-year-old’s retirement.

The club are known to be looking at adding a winger in the upcoming transfer window but, should Grella continue to impress in the meantime, then head coach Jesse Marsch will have a hard time dropping the ex-Leeds man for whoever is brought in.

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