Preview: After venue switch, United & Red Bulls primed to spark long-heated rivalry

D.C. UNITED v NEW YORK RED BULLS
Sat., Nov. 3, RFK Memorial Stadium (8 p.m. ET; NBCSN)

REFEREE: Jair Marrufo.
AR1 (bench): Craig Lowry; AR2 (opposite): Adam Wienckowski;
4th: Jorge Gonzalez

INJURY REPORT: NEW YORK RED BULLS -- OUT: DF Brandon Barklage (L plantar fascia injury); GK Ryan Meara (L hip surgery); MF Lloyd Sam (R knee PCL injury) ... D.C. UNITED -- OUT: FW Josh Wolff (lower back disc herniation); MF Dwayne De Rosario (L knee MCL sprain); DOUBTFUL: MF Lewis Neal (L calf strain); QUESTIONABLE: DF Daniel Woolard (concussion-like symptoms); FW Long Tan (L ankle sprain)
SUSPENDED: none
WARNINGS: none

LEAGUE HEAD-TO-HEAD:
DC 31 wins (1 SO), 116 GF ... NY 20 wins (1 SO), 87 goals ... Ties 8

2012 HEAD-TO-HEAD: NY 1 win, 6 GF; DC 1 win, 8 GF; 1 tie
AT RFK STADIUM:
4/22: DC 4, NY 1 (Pontius 8, 32, 69; DeLeon 36 ñ Henry 72)
8/29: DC 2, NY 2 (DeLeon 21; De Rosario 68 -- Lindpere 19; Conde 88)

MLS CUP PLAYOFFS: NY 1 win, 4 GF ... DC 5 wins, 11 GF ... 1 tie


LAST MEETING: DC 2, NY 2


D.C. UNITED

  • D.C. United will face their oldest foe for their first postseason match in five seasons. All the way back in 1996, United opened their run to their first MLS Cup with a playoff meeting with the then-MetroStars.
  • "This is what I wanted, to be honest. You welcome the challenge. In playoffs you going to have to beat tough teams so why not do it early. I think it's a good matchup," said midfielder Chris Pontius. Said goalkeeper Bill Hamid: "We went from last place two years ago to second place two years later. Thatís huge for us. Weíre happy and weíre going to take advantage of it."
  • After the victory by the Red Bulls earlier in the day, United knew they needed to come away from Chicago with a point to avoid dropping into the Knockout Round match. ìWe are now one of eight teams in the playoffs. The other two have to go through a playoff, and that's a big deal, playing back-to-back," said United head coach Ben Olsen.
  • "It will start to take its toll. It's certainly doable, but we wanted to avoid it." Added Nick DeLeon: "I feel like I'm ready. We have a week to prepare for the match. I feel like we will be ready and itís going to be a dogfight. I can't wait."
  • United enter the postseason riding a seven-game undefeated streak, matching their longest of the season (also: March 24-April 28). ìI think the team is peaking at the right point and guys are playing for each other. Guys are wanting the ball, we had great possession (vs. Chicago) and we have good team chemistry right now,î said Pontius
  • Hamid equaled his career-high with eight saves in the finale. "He's become a guy with a real presence in there," Olsen said. "I've talked about his growth, [goalkeeper coach] Pat [Onstad] has talked about his growth. As long as he can continue to stay at this level and be consistent and improve, heís got an unbelievable future."
  • Lionard Pajoy made his 12th consecutive start since his arrival from Philadelphia in the season finale, scoring his third goal since coming to United. "It was probably one of our better possession games of the year," said Olsen. "Give a lot of credit to Pajoy, he missed his chances, he doesnít get frustrated, and he finds a way to get us the goal."
  • Returning to the lineup for the first time since Sept. 20 for the Chicago match, Branko Boskovic collected his seventh assist of the season and his second in as many games.

NEW YORK RED BULLS

  • Coming off back-to-back attacking shutouts, the Red Bulls traveled to Philadelphia for the season finale needing a win to avoid the Knockout Round. They responded with a 3-0 victory, their fourth game with 3-plus goals in the last 10.
  • "I think the last two games, we played great games and now we have two clean sheets in a row going into the playoffs. Scoring three away, everyone else had great difficulty and itís tough every time in MLS," said Red Bulls head coach Hans Backe. "It's massive for us, avoiding the midweek game and that means a lot."
  • The Red Bulls won away from home for the first time since a 2-1 win at Montreal on May 19. They had 0-4-5 on their travels since that victory.
  • "Playing on the road in this league isnít easy, so for our mentality, I think itís good," Dax McCarty said. "We came out and we wanted to have the same mindset that we had against Kansas City at home. No matter who we play in the next round ... we know we have a home game coming up and then weíre going to have to play well on the road if we want to go far in the playoffs." Said Backe: "You need to win on the road, of course, and thatís a great a win. Confidence-wise, winning away means a lot."
  • Kenny Cooper hit for his second two-goal game in the last four matches, ending the season second in the MLS Golden Boot race with 18. It was Cooper's fifth two-goal game this season.
  • "I think Kenny Cooper's a striker that needs surroundings, needs players that can set him up for finishing. ... He's up to 18 or something like that now, and, of course, he needs two players around him to set him up," said Backe. Said Thierry Henry: "That's what he does best. He got two, but we all have to do a little bit more. As the center forward sometimes you got to keep the ball better. It's not all about scoring goals, sometimes you got to keep the ball better and pass it to your teammates. But 18 goals -- we need that. We are going to need more of his goals going forward."
  • For a second consecutive, Rafa Marquez slotted into central defense -- and the Red Bulls recorded a second consecutive clean sheet.
  • "Heís a great defender. With his experience in the back our defense is solid," said Tim Cahill. "It's great playing on the same team with him. We got a good array of players around him, but heís an exceptional player. Last two games, two clean sheets -- the results speak for themselves."