New York Red Bulls head coach Chris Armas believes the new surroundings of Audi Field will give a decidedly different feel to his side’s 75th regular season meeting with D.C. United on Wednesday night (8 pm ET | TV & streaming info).
Sometimes, different is good.
“I was part of the league in ‘96 when the classic battles were taking place,” recalls Armas, who made numerous trips to D.C.'s old RFK Stadium as a player with the LA Galaxy and Chicago Fire. “It’s always been such a difficult opponent in RFK. So will it be different? I think it will be different. It’s synonymous, RFK with D.C., with the classic rival. But I do think it will be a special one too. You expect a packed house and I think of all the clubs out there they deserve the building.”
Historically, a change of scenery could certainly be good for the Red Bulls.
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New York may have won the final MLS game played at RFK Stadium last October, as well as the most recent playoff game contested between the two there in 2015. However, they still departed RFK with an 11-21-6 regular season record. Their 77 regular season goals conceded at East Capitol Street are 11 more than at any other away venue.
And despite D.C. currently sitting last in the Eastern Conference, Armas believes they're close to recapturing some of that vintage form with the addition of Wayne Rooney to a versatile young roster. There's perhaps something to that, as United have scored 12 goals in their last five games.
“They have such an attacking group that’s dynamic, and they have really good balance right now,” Armas says. “Obviously adding Wayne Rooney makes it always interesting and a challenge. And we know what he can provide for them. He’ such a good passer in addition to the goals that he can create, so he’s always going to be trouble.”
It’s unclear whether Rooney will start again, four days after going 66 minutes in his first MLS start, a 3-1 loss at Supporters’ Shield leaders Atlanta. And while D.C. have their offensive groove back, they continue to leak goals on the other end, conceding 33 now through 16 games.
It’s been the opposite for New York, who have kept three clean sheets over their last five games while winning five of their last six. They allowed just one shot on goal in last Saturday's 2-0 home win over New England, though Red Bulls center back Tim Parker expects more of a threat on Wednesday.
“They’ve kind of been clicking lately, so we have to be ready for them especially at their home field to kind of take advantage of us early on,” Parker says of D.C. They’re going to look to come at us and put pressure on us, but we obviously just have to weather that storm and make sure that we can kind of get through that first 15-20 minutes.”