Storied DC United-New York rivalry features new twist

WASHINGTON — Past New York-D.C. United match ups have generally generated some memorable moments.

There’s Ben Olsen’s rare hat trick in a 4-2 win at RFK Stadium in 2007. There’s also DC’s frantic comeback at the Old Meadowlands Stadium in 2009, as United scored twice in injury time to win 3-2. And most recently, a 4-0 win earlier this season for the Red Bulls, punctuated by Juan Agudelo’s spectacular flicked-up, twisting, swerving volley to complete the rout.

But on Saturday at Red Bull Arena (7:30 pm ET, watch LIVE online), the next edition of one of MLS’ most storied rivalries will have a unique twist to it: Dwayne De Rosario and Dax McCarty will both face their old teams less than two weeks after being swapped for each other in a blockbuster deal.

WATCH: Agudelo's sweet volley vs. DC
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“It’s another story line that is added to this whole deal,” said Olsen, now DC's head coach. “I can’t pretend it’s not something that’s going to be talked about.”

Last week’s trade wasn’t the first time the two sides have engineered a major deal. In December 2002, Eddie Pope, Richie Williams and Jaime Moreno were all sent to the then-MetroStars in exchange for defender Mike Petke (now an assistant coach with the Red Bulls) and an assortment of draft picks.

Of course the big difference this time is that the two sides pulled the trigger on the deal in the middle of the season — and less than two weeks from when they’d face each other in league play.

For midfielder Chris Pontius, it was strange tuning in to New York’s last couple of games and seeing McCarty in the center of the Red Bulls midfield.

“I’ve watched both of their games and seeing him in the Red Bulls jersey is weird,” he said. “But it is what it is, and you’ve got to go out there and approach it in the right way.”

Going up against McCarty, who was often paired alongside Clyde Simms before the trade, will almost be like returning to normalcy for the DC veteran.

“Dax and I played against each other more times than with each other I feel like, so I’m used to playing against him and playing against him in practice,” Simms said. “It will be a little weird since the trade is so fresh.”

Having two players recently swap sides right before a matchup will be like having top spies infiltrate and steal top secret information from one another. De Rosario, for example, revealed plenty about New York’s play.

“[He pointed out] little things about each player as we go down their list of players and their formation,” Simms said. “That always helps. He saw things from every day in practice that maybe our coaches didn’t get from watching a game or two. It’s good to have him on our side, but they have Dax doing the same thing for them.”

Travis Clark covers D.C. United, College and Youth soccer for MLSsoccer.com. Follow him on Twitter: @travismclark.