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 look back at one of the more bizarre moments in the rivalry that made a teen sensation into a star and earned Bob Bradley a nickname among D.C. fans that he has yet to live down. On July 5, 2003, with the game knotted at 2-2 at the end of regulation at steamy RFK Stadium, the then-MetroStars head coach exploited a bizarre loophole in the rules to get an extra field player substituted in.
Bradley swapped goalkeeper Tim Howard and midfielder Mark Lisi, then brought 16-year-old Eddie Gaven off the bench to take Lisi’s spot in the nets. Ten seconds later, when the ball went out of play, Howard returned to goal and Gaven took his spot in midfield, giving the MetroStars a fresh attacker. The teenager then went on to score the winning goal nine minutes into overtime.
The aftermath prompted MLS to strike down the fourth-substitution rule ... and earned Bradley the nickname of “Cheatin’ Bob” in the nation’s capital. Here’s how it went down in the words of Gaven, who’s now wearing Columbus Crew gold for the eighth straight season…
I didn't know what was going on. [Bob] just said, “You're going in via some strange rule and you have to put on the goalie gloves and the goalie jersey first.” Our team was going to try and hit the ball out of bounds then we were going to switch with Tim Howard.
That's exactly what we did, and we ended up getting the ball. They made it very easy for me, very clear that as soon as it goes out, go up with Tim and exchange jerseys and just go out and play.
I think they actually had the kickoff and I was nervous that they were going to shoot it right off the kickoff because they can do that. Then, who knows what would happen after that. Luckily, they didn't. They tried a pass and ended up losing it. Someone on our team hit it out of bounds and we made the change.
Did I secretly want a shot at me? No way. The game was tied and I didn't want to be the guy who ended up losing the game for the team. I was happy when we booted it into the stands. I didn't realize how hard it is to take off the gloves. I struggled there a little bit. I think I needed [defender] Chris Leitch to help me with that.
Later, I ended up scoring my first goal. It was crazy. It's something that I will never, ever forget. Scoring my first goal, it being the game-winning goal against one of our rivals and having played goalie, all in the same game, was pretty cool.