The New York Red Bulls travel down I-95 to face their old historic rival, D.C. United, on Wednesday, August 21, 2019, at Audi Field.
Setting the stage
This will be the first time these bitter foes face off in 2019, with the Red Bulls getting the better of them last year with an away tie and a home draw. Some bald Englishman had just arrived mid-season for D.C. and had them creep into the playoffs by a hair after being at the bottom of the table for most of 2018. Though this Rooney guy could not get his side a victory over their fiercest rival.
This year, both sides have kind of been on a similar path, surprisingly disappointing for each of their fanbases, respectively. United was expected to be the strongest contender in the East for the Supporters’ Shield, and the Red Bulls, as every year, looked poised to make a run for the MLS Cup after last season’s achievements. Neither has looked as so.
D.C. started 2019 hot, as they ended 2018, winning seven of their first 12 games to reach the top of the East. The dangerous duo of “LuchoRoo” – Luciano Acosta and Wayne Rooney – combined for nine goals and six assists in those first 12 games.
Then it seemed the Black-and-Red came down to earth, coupled with key injuries, new acquisitions adapting to the league, and opponents figuring out how to play against Ben Olsen’s team. Rooney’s team has just managed three victories in their last 15 games.
On the other side of the spectrum, RBNY had just five wins in their first 12 games, having already lost three games at home by May; The Red Bulls have not had more than three losses at home since Red Bull Arena opened in 2010.
The Red Bulls continued to look like a shell of the 2018 Supporters’ Shield Champion, not pressing as aggressively and to the shock of most, containing more possession. Though this team was not made for that style and many started to call for Chris Armas’ job. They’ve picked up crucial wins against Atlanta, NYCFC, and Toronto at home, though have not been enough to convince the fanbase ‘this is the year’.
Heading into Rivalry
United’s summer was a rollercoaster, to say the least. They signed three MLS veterans, as D.C. usually does, to help cover some injuries and add depth for the tough stretch. Though the biggest news to come out of the Nation’s Capital, was their captain Wayne Rooney calling an end to his time in a Black-and-Red jersey after this 2019 season. Then rumors continued to swirl of Lucho Acosta following Wazza out the door at Audi Field and the potential next star to replace Rooney – Mesut Özil.
To make matters interesting, D.C.’s 2-1 win over LA Galaxy two weeks ago came with LuchoRoo not playing a minute.
For the Red Bulls, this week could arguably make or break their 2019 season. They faced another conference foe this past weekend at home and dropped two points to the New England Revolution, 1-1, after dominating the first half and hitting 22 shots.
Not only do the Red Bulls kick start MLS Heineken Rivalry Week in D.C. on Wednesday, but then travel to Yankee Stadium on Saturday to close off the Hudson River Derby for 2019. Three games in eight days against tough Eastern conference opponents all fighting to secure a spot in the postseason. You have to assume Armas is planning on rotating players but then again, shrugs-emoji.
Players to watch
One of those MLS veterans that D.C. signed – Felipe Martins.
Ex-Red Bull and the player D.C. United hated the most in this rivalry. Funny how quick roles are reversed. Definitely, have to keep your eye on him.
There’s another Brit that the Red Bulls supporters are actually waiting to see more anxiously, as they await his club debut – Josh Sims. He just got his visa on Monday and being on loan until the end of the season with just eight games left, how could he not see action right away. BUT then again, shrugs-emoji.
BWP <3 Audi Field
2 matches. 4 goals 😎
Photo by Bill Twomey Photography