D.C. United and the New York Red Bulls is the original rivalry in Major League Soccer. The Cascadia Cup and the feud between Seattle and Portland might steal more headlines, but the passion is as strong as ever for the Atlantic Cup.
The quest for the Atlantic Cup continues on Sunday at R.F.K. Stadium when United hosts the Red Bulls. The competition was launched in 2002 when the Red Bulls were still known as the MetroStars. By then there had been plenty of emotion and flashpoints between the teams including United’s elimination of the MetroStars from the 1996 playoffs.
All this week through social media supporters groups like the Screaming Eagles, Barra Brava, La Norte and District Ultras have proudly announced strong ticket sales and multiple sections that are sold out. A group of supporters from Richmond is making the trip and as always fans form New York will be represented.
The atmosphere should be electric and then there is the game that should only add more energy to the afternoon. The Red Bulls are the middle of seven teams competing for the final three playoff spots in the Eastern Conference. United is in a tussle with Kansas City for first place.
1. The Red Bulls have quality. More was expected this season from the Red Bulls after capturing the Supporter’s Shield as the team with the best record in MLS in 2013. Of teams in MLS with at least a .500 record the Red Bulls have given up the most goals (36) and that in part explains why ten times they have had to settle for a tie. On offense it is a different story. Bradley Wright-Phillips is the son of Arsenal legend Ian Wright and like his father he scores and leads MLS in goals with 20. Speaking of Arsenal legends Thierry Henry’s future is often debated, but there is no question about the present Henry shares the MLS lead in assists with 11. Oh and then there is Tim Cahill making dangerous runs out of midfield and is a threat to create and score. United cannot allow the Red Bulls to have the kind of possession they permitted the Galaxy to have on Wednesday.
2. United must dictate terms. The combination of Davy Arnaud and Perry Kitchen need to control the middle and then use the flanks. United is at its best when Nick DeLeon and Chris Rolfe are active and the outside backs are involved. I think there is no question Fabian Espindola starts, but will Luis Silva or Eddie Johnson join him at forward? With Jamison Olave and Ibrahim Sekagya a towering presence in the center of the Red Bulls defense, United might be best suited to go with Johnson’s size and strength up top.