Though Rivalry Week is full of great moments between rival clubs, no matchup has history that dates back to the inaugural year of Major League Soccer the way the Atlantic Cup rivalry does.
And so, in honor of Saturday’s 72nd all-time meeting between the New York Red Bulls and D.C. United (12:30 pm ET, NBC, live chat on MLSsoccer.com), we look back on the greatest moments in the history of the rivalry ... told by the people who remember it best.
Today, we recall a flashpoint moment that still rankles fans in New Jersey. On April 29, 2006, D.C. United forward Alecko Eskandarian celebrated the first of his two goals in a 4-1 D.C. win at Giants Stadium by running toward the United bench, catching a can of Red Bull, taking a swig and spitting the energy drink out in mock disgust.
It was meant to be a light-hearted shot by the Montvale, N.J., native at the former MetroStars, who had been purchased by the Austrian energy-drink manufacturer and rebranded a month earlier. But MLS disagreed, and fined him $250 for the stunt.
Here’s how it went down in Eskandarian’s words ...
It was like a running joke in our locker room after Red Bull bought the team. It didn’t stop. I’m not going to throw anyone under the bus, but Ben Olsen was my roommate on that road trip and I would say he definitely helped influence what I did a little bit.
To be honest, I was on the fence of doing anything. But then we got to the stadium. We walked into the locker room and, where they used to have coolers full of Gatorade and water, the first thing we see is a giant cooler full of Red Bull. I’m talking like 500 cans. Right then and there, I’m like, “I’m doing this.” That’s officially when I decided.
So I took a can, put it next to our bench and, right before kickoff, I pulled [former D.C. attacker] Jamil Walker aside and I said, “Listen, if I score, just throw me this.” He was like, “What are you gonna do, Alecko?” I said, “Don’t worry about it.”
I wasn’t even sure what I was going to do. I didn’t really have anything choreographed. I just thought it was funny that they had the cooler there.
When he threw it to me after I scored, my first thought was, I’ll drink this. As I’m drinking it – it was only the 41st minute – it occurs to me: I’m going to look like the biggest jackass if I cramp up. There’s too much soccer left to play. If they score, I don’t want to be on the bench because I drank an energy drink.
At that moment, I thought it might be best to eject it from my system. And then I threw the can down as if that was what I meant to do the whole time. I wasn’t thinking a single thing about how it might come across, I was just having fun with the team name. I never meant for it to be disrespectful.
Years later, I ran into a huge Red Bulls fan while I was home in Jersey. He said, “Look, I know who you are, and I was always a huge fan, but I can’t like you because of that celebration. How could you do that as a Jersey guy?”
And I looked at him and I said, “Dude, that celebration was the most Jersey thing I could do.”
He pauses for a second and says, “That’s a great point. I forgive you.”