The rivalry begins. The two teams had already met four times in the inaugural MLS season, but as Red Bulls legend Tony Meola recalled, the rivalry really started with an Eastern Conference semifinal series between the two teams. New York had just equalized in the dying minutes of the decisive third game, but an 89th minute penalty from Raul Diaz Arce would break New York’s heart for the first of many times in the Atlantic Cup.
Just call him Agent Moreno. After a falling-out with then-D.C. United coach Ray Hudson, fan favorite Jaime Moreno was traded to the MetroStars with none other than MetroStars/Red Bulls legend Mike Petke part of the package going the other way. However, he scored just two goals for the MetroStars before being traded back to D.C. in 2004 and promptly regaining his form, leading fans from both sides to speculate that he was a double agent all along.
Bob Bradley may be one of the most accomplished American coaches in history, but he earned the ire of D.C. United fans (and the moniker ‘Cheatin’ Bob’) when he exploited a loophole in the league’s fourth-substitution rule (for goalkeepers only). A 16-year-old Eddie Gaven came on as a goalkeeper for the MetroStars in overtime (thanks in part to one of Moreno’s two goals for the Metros), played there for a grand total of 10 seconds before handing the gloves back to Tim Howard, and promptly went on to score a golden goal winner.
It was tough for MetroStars fans to look south and see their rivals racking up the trophies in the early years, so the tension was naturally high as D.C. and NY/NJ entered the dying minutes of their US Open Cup semifinal clash, tied 2-2. Enter John Wolyniec, who struck a dramatic winner to send the MetroStars to their first major title game on his own way to becoming a MetroStars/Red Bulls legend.
Back with D.C., Jaime Moreno picked up where he left off in tormenting the Metros faithful. In one of the most lopsided results ever seen in this series, Moreno delivered a particularly humiliating blow when he picked the pocket of MetroStars ‘keeper Jonny Walker, dispossessing him in the box and nutmegging before putting away a simple finish to give D.C. United a 2-1 lead. D.C. would eventually win 6-2. United would go on to win MLS Cup that year.
Offside Earnie eliminates the Metros. D.C. once again eliminated their rivals in heartbreaking fashion when US international Earnie Stewart opened the scoring in the first leg of their series at Giants Stadium. Even D.C. fans and Stewart’s teammates were not so sure he was onside, but the goal stood and paved the way for what would be a 4-0 aggregate win for D.C. United.
Alecko Eskandarian’s spit take after scoring for D.C. against the newly-christened Red Bulls in 2006 will live on as one of the most iconic Atlantic Cup moments. After scoring the first of his two goals in a 4-1 win at Giants Stadium, the New Jersey native ran over to the United bench, caught a can of Red Bull and took a swig before spitting it out in mock disgust. It’s a moment that still rankles Red Bulls fans, and did earn Eskandarian a $250 fine from MLS.
In one of the most mutually beneficial trades we’ve seen in MLS, the two rivals swapped players: Four-time MLS Cup winner Dwayne De Rosario went to D.C. in exchange for the tenacious Dax McCarty. De Rosario would score his first D.C. goal against New York and go on to win the MVP award that year and then scored his 100th MLS goal against the Red Bulls in 2012. McCarty, meanwhile, has continued to be a fan favorite among Red Bulls supporters amid their rise to the upper echelons of MLS teams.
Call it a snow day. The Eastern Conference semifinal second leg between the Red Bulls and Metros was already unusually postponed because of inclement weather, but the wackiness didn’t stop there. It all started in the 69th minute when D.C. goalkeeper Bill Hamid was sent off and Kenny Cooper converted a potentially series-winning penalty for New York, only to have it whistled off for encroachment. Replacement ‘keeper Joe Willis saved the second attempt, and six minutes later Red Bulls’ Rafa Marquez was sent off, leaving both teams with 10 men. Nick DeLeon would go on to fire home an 88th-minute winner for United to cap off an unforgettable few days in November.
After four playoff eliminations at the hands of D.C., the Red Bulls finally got their revenge. New York captured their first playoff series win against United, winning 2-0 at Red Bull Arena before a critical Peguy Luyindula goal helped them secure advancement despite a 2-1 loss at RFK Stadium.