UPPER MONTCLAIR, N.J. – The sting is still there for the New York Red Bulls. The painful, bitter memory of a lopsided defeat to archrivals D.C. United earlier this season still fresh in their minds.
Needless to say, the Red Bulls are eager to flush that from their collective consciousness.
Having suffered a 4-1 road loss to United in April, New York will have an opportunity to make up for one of their worst performances of the season when they host their nemeses in front of what is expected to be a sold-out Red Bull Arena on Sunday (7 pm ET, NBCSN, LIVE CHAT on MLSsoccer.com).
NBCSN PREVIEW: Red Bulls host United
As if matches between the two sides weren’t already intense enough, the second Atlantic Cup fixture of the campaign is sure to be full of fireworks, as both teams attempt to establish themselves as the alpha dog of the Eastern Conference. United currently hold that title, but the Red Bulls are keen on erasing the three points that separate them while also getting some redemption for their dismal defeat earlier in the year.
“We’ve been waiting for this game for a while now, to get some revenge,” rookie Connor Lade told MLSsoccer.com after the Red Bulls’ training session on Friday. “But it’s going to be a heated rivalry game. It’s going to be a big crowd, so all the aspects are going to be there for a great game and great rivalry.”
Lade got a firsthand taste of just how tough the rivalry can be back in April, making his first start as a professional in the 4-1 drubbing. He struggled in the first half of the rainy match at RFK Stadium, but bounced back in the second half with a more solid effort.
Fast-forward a couple months later and Lade has established himself as a reliable rotational player for head coach Hans Backe to lean on. He’s spent time at left back, right back and in the midfield this season, but his most recent starts have shown he is a player who is progressing, though far from a finished product.
“He’s improving definitely,” said Backe. “I think the little difference is that he obviously is more composed. Still, he has to calm down a little bit, take more time on the ball, more composed. That means also that he plays a much better pass, gets a much better rhythm in the passing game.”
After earning a surprise start as a left midfielder against the Whitecaps on Wednesday, Lade demonstrated a smoother passing game and he nearly set up a goal with a good through ball to Dane Richards. He also demonstrated his patented high motor as he tracked back to help out defensively.
Lade is hoping to show more of that this season regardless of if he starts or comes off the bench. And he wants to start by doing so in the upcoming dogfight against United, a match that could help Red Bulls climb back into first place in the Eastern Conference while making amends for the letdown they endured in April.
“Everyone needs to bring their 'A' game to the table,” said Lade. “We have to be very intense because we saw what happens when you go into a game not necessarily prepared. We’re just really champing at the bit to get out there and play.”
Franco Panizo covers the New York Red Bulls for MLSsoccer.com. He can be reached at Franco8813@gmail.com.