United eye first win against I-95 rivals New York

The basics

New York Red Bulls (4-1-0) versus D.C. United (0-4-0) at RFK Stadium, Washington, D.C.

United lead all-time regular-season series 29-17-6

What's at stake?

New York versus D.C. comprises perhaps the oldest rivalry in Major League Soccer—and given the fans’ proximity and mutual antipathy, it was definitely the first that could begin to compare to the heated local ‘derbies’ of the European game. Over the years, United have dominated possession of the Atlantic Cup trophy contested by these two teams since 2002, but this latest meeting finds the Red Bulls in the ascendancy. Hans Backe’s team is reveling in Red Bull Arena, its glittering new home on the Passaic River, and owns first place in the Eastern Conference. Meanwhile the longtime denizens of aging RFK have limped out to an 0-4 start in league play. But can the New Yorkers overcome that enduring capital city curse?

Last meeting

United defeated the Red Bulls 2-0 on a rainy Thursday night at RFK on June 4 thanks to goals from Santino Quaranta and Jaime Moreno and some quality saves from former goalkeeper Josh Wicks. The win completed a season sweep of New York to give the Black-and-Red their seventh Atlantic Cup title. It might also be remembered for recently-reacquired striker Luciano Emilio’s blistering attack on a group of sideline water bottles as he reacted angrily to being substituted in the second half.

Remember when?

This rivalry’s long history has generated plenty of memorable moments. Diehard MetroStars/Red Bulls fans still treasure their 1996 shootout playoff victory over D.C., when a limping Peter Vermes asked referee Esse Baharmast, “If I score, we win?” before netting the decider at Giants Stadium during the league’s era of NASL-style shootouts. Ten years later, United striker Alecko Eskandarian returned to his native New Jersey and scored the first goal in a 4-1 D.C. rout, then celebrated by swigging a mouthful of Red Bull energy drink and spitting it out on the Meadowlands FieldTurf.

Heroes & villains

Carey Talley vs. Juan Pablo Angel – Injury-hit United brought Emilio back into the fold this week to boost their attack, but the D.C. back line remains badly undermanned. Talley will likely partner with Devon McTavish in central defense and simply must keep tabs on the Red Bulls’ prolific Colombian striker.

Joel Lindpere vs. Clyde Simms/Kurt Morsink – The Estonian international has been one of the revelations of this young season and must rank as an early candidate for Newcomer of the Year. United will be in trouble if he’s allowed to patrol the center of the park with authority on Saturday afternoon, so D.C. coach Curt Onalfo may look partner Morsink with Simms, his veteran midfield destroyer, if the latter is fit enough to start after his recovery from hamstring troubles.

Stat that makes you go "Hmm …"

Jaime Moreno’s career stat line against New York is 24 goals, 18 assists. It’s somewhat ironic given his brief, injury-blighted stint with the MetroStars in 2003, but the league’s all-time leading scorer has abused United’s I-95 rivals as badly as any club in MLS. He’s now 36 years old and plays in a very different style from the old days, but Red Bulls defenders would be wise to close him down with alacrity anywhere near their own penalty box on Saturday.

He said it

“We just need to go out and get our first result. We all know that. And we’re going to do that Saturday night.”—United general manager Dave Kasper explains how his confidence-starved side can reverse their early-season struggles