HANOVER, N.J . – As rivalries go for the New York Red Bulls, there are three different and distinct layers.
D.C. United is the oldest.
Atlanta United is the newest.
But New York City FC is the most passionate.
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“It’s two teams in New York, it’s the New York Derby,” defender Aaron Long said after training Tuesday. “You know you're going to be up for it. You know they're going to be up for it. You know the fans are going to be invested in it. So it's a game that you can’t wait to can't wait to play.”
The wait is over for both teams, with the first derby match of 2019 coming Sunday (6:30 pm ET | FS1, TSN1, FOX Sports Go) at Red Bull Arena.
That it comes on the heels of the most recent slugfest with Atlanta – the two Eastern Conference powerhouses went toe-to-toe in a heated 3-3 draw – could benefit the Red Bulls.
“Does that one help you prepare for what's ahead? I hope so. To understand the intensity needed, the focus needed, the quality needed at times, and the discipline that those games demand,” Red Bulls coach Chris Armas said. “Even what we said after the game to the guys is that has to be the standard. That shouldn't be something we can pull out of the hat on certain days. The good thing is we have that in us. The challenge for every team and top players and coaches is to maintain that standard of work all the time.”
Midfielder Sean Davis has been a part of each of those rivalries and said they bring something different to the table.
“All of them are really important. Especially coming off this game with Atlanta, it'll be interesting to see how this one compares,” Davis said. “But for me, it's hard to choose one, all of them are really intense. But this one obviously means a lot to the players. And we know how important it is to the fans.”
Armas said when he played for the Chicago Fire in the early days of MLS, there were heated games against the New England Revolution, D.C. United and Columbus Crew. But none compared to the true derbies MLS has in New York and Los Angeles.
And because of the close proximity between the teams and the event that each game has become, Armas said the New York Derby carries some extra weight.
“It’s the one,” Armas said. “All the games we’ve played against them, that little bit of back and forth lately, the proximity, the energy in each stadium is always excellent. Our fans in their building and theirs in ours."