WASHINGTON – In the midst of a five-game unbeaten streak, D.C. United are preparing for the biggest threat to their current when the high-scoring New York Red Bulls visit RFK Stadium on Sunday evening (6 pm ET, ESPN2/Deportes/RDS2, Live Chat on MLSsoccer.com).
United started the season slowly on the defensive end, conceding four times in the opening two losses of the season. In the ensuing five games, the Black and Red have conceded just three goals, and that has Ben Olsen's charges confident ahead of the game versus New York.
"[Thierry] Henry speaks for himself, and Cooper is a big body to put in the box," United center back Brandon McDonald told MLSsoccer.com on Friday. "For us though, we aren't focused on them, but we are focused what we do here as a group."
WATCH: DC - NY Preview
Still, Henry and Cooper form one of the best striking partnerships in MLS – the two have combined for 14 goals already this season. That production is tangible proof of just how deadly the pair can be, but McDonald said United aren't overthinking things.
"I think collectively, if we can put it together, we can come away with the win," McDonald said.
Putting it all together might be difficult for United, who will be playing their third game in nine days. A 2-1 win against New England gave D.C. an ideal start to the tough stretch, but with several changes made in the team for the Montreal game, a lethargic first half limited them to just one point against the expansion side.
Another quick turnaround means that United will have little time to refocus for the Red Bulls, or dwell too much on the disappointing draw with the Impact. But with the coaches paying close attention to the fitness of the players, it appears they will be completely prepared for the Red Bulls' test.
"It's about being smart about what you are doing," McDonald said of the quick turnaround. "The coaches made the right changes with the guys that played [against Montreal], and resting the right guys."
Sunday's matchup with the Red Bulls is the first of the 2012 version of the Atlantic Cup, the trophy given out annually to the team that wins the season series. After years of domination by United, New York has taken the trophy the past two seasons.
The game is the first of three matchups this season between two teams that are trying to improve upon several disappointing seasons during the past couple of years. Though there are still plenty of games to be played this season, Sunday's game just might set the tone for both teams for the next couple of weeks.
"From the fans' standpoint and the coaching staff's and the players that have been here, it is a big rivalry," McDonald said. "But we will just try to put in 110 percent effort in, and we'll try to come away with a victory."