WASHINGTON – Fresh off a last-minute win against their newest rivals, D.C. United head to Red Bull Arena this weekend for a showdown against the club’s oldest nemesis (Sunday, 7 pm ET, NBC Sports Network, LIVE CHAT on MLSsoccer.com). Consecutive rivalry games – both on the road – might make some coaches shudder, but don’t count Ben Olsen among them.
“When the league changed the schedule where we would play New York and Philly and New England ... I was pumped,” Olsen said earlier this week on dcunited.com's Capital Soccer Show. “I liked playing in those games as a player, I like coaching in them and I think people enjoy watching them.”
Though Sunday’s match will take place in New Jersey, the Red Bulls will actually be the more travel-weary of the two sides come the weekend. New York visited Vancouver on Wednesday night and – with the point they earned at BC Place – pulled within striking distance of DC atop the Eastern Conference.
“It’s a game they are going to be up for regardless if they are fatigued or not,” said United captain Dwayne De Rosario, who has his team sitting three points clear of the Red Bulls. “I think they got enough days to rest.”
Against the Whitecaps, both Thierry Henry (calf strain) and Rafa Márquez (thigh contusion) sat out as the Red Bulls rolled the dice without their two most expensive players.
It’s a risk no one expects New York coach Hans Backe to replicate on Sunday.
“If Henry is in the lineup, we know what he offers,” Olsen said. “But for the most part, we’ll try and get ourselves as ready as we can be on our side and [take care of] everything we can control on our end and then see what their lineup has in store when we get to New York.”
With one more game played than their weekend foe, United’s thin lead in the table is tenuous at best. A New York win would even the teams on points, and give Red Bull a slight advantage with a game in hand.
“This is a game we are looking forward to,” said De Rosario, who scored his first-ever goal with United at Red Bull Arena last July. “If we can get a three points in New York it would be a huge motivation, and a morale-booster for us.”
NBC PREVIEW: New York set to host D.C. in battle of old foes