As one of the classic rivalries of Major League Soccer, the Atlantic Cup battles between New York Red Bulls and D.C. United have produced dramatic and enthralling matches. New York earned a 1-0 victory in the first game of the series to be played at Audi Field, and the fixture also introduced a new character into the fight.

Wayne Rooney joined United this summer, and was a second-half substitute in the Red Bulls’ win on Wednesday evening. The former Manchester United forward entered in the 57th minute for Darren Mattocks.

Wayne Rooney: The newest character in the Atlantic Cup rivalry

The 32-year-old was not able to help his new side find an equalizer on the night, but he did manage to create several scoring chances before the final whistle. Rooney brings a wealth of knowledge and experience to MLS from his time in the Premier League and on the international stage with England, ultimately bringing a buzz to a team struggling to make an impact in the Eastern Conference standings.

He also represents a new direction in the rivalry from D.C.’s perspective, as United have not usually looked towards adding high-priced signings throughout their storied history.

Atlantic Cup

The Atlantic Cup began in the official sense in 2002, with plenty of exciting matches before that time. D.C. began life brightly in the early days of MLS, as the club captured three titles in the league’s first four seasons.

There was also the nagging coincidence for Red Bulls fans that players and coaches from New York always seemed to find greater success in the nation’s capital. From Bruce Arena to Bob Bradley to Mike Petke, that aspect was always a source of frustration for Metro supporters.

This decade saw a change, with New York lifting five of the last eight Atlantic Cups. While United have the edge in the overall series, recent success has belonged to the Red Bulls. Big-name acquisitions such as Thierry Henry and Tim Cahill certainly helped that, and gave the squad a bit of shine and star power as well. Now, in what feels like something very new, D.C. United bring that strategic approach with Wayne Rooney.

Rivalry continues

The teams will meet two more times this season, with New York hosting United on August 26th at Red Bull Arena before traveling to Audi Field again on September 16th. Manager Chris Armas’ squad saw a preview of what to expect from Rooney, and he certainly adds a new dimension to this D.C. side.

The most obvious aspect could be seen with the energy in the stadium, as just his introduction to the field brought about a serious jolt of electricity. This was seen not only in the stands, but amongst his teammates as well. After a slow start to the second half, United were much more proactive and dangerous in the final third after Rooney was subbed on.

With players around him like Paul Arriola and Luciano Acosta that can utilize their pace and skill to create space, Rooney’s instincts in the opposing half can become a dangerous weapon. New York center-back Tim Parker had his hands full late in the game, even coming very close to giving up a penalty. The Englishman’s timing for his runs is sharp, and he still has the capability to influence a match in a significant way.

Even if D.C. manager Ben Olsen chooses to go with long-ball or “Route One” tactics, Rooney has the ability to make the most of this style of play as well.

New York Red Bulls got the better of D.C. United this week. However, Wayne Rooney brought a new element to the Atlantic Cup rivalry, and the club’s defenders must be prepared for the new challenge.

Photo By dom fellowes from UK – Wayne, CC BY 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=50943725

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