Oldest Rivals in MLS Set to Battle Again

Image / MLSSoccer.com

New York will be hoping their 5-0 drubbing of Toronto FC on Wednesday was just the first chapter of a successful second half to the MLS season. Tonight the oldest rivalry in MLS takes center stage, as DC United come to Red Bull Arena. Lately, New York has had the upper hand in the I-95 grudge match. However, New York’s pre-Red Bull Arena history is littered with agonizing defeats to the boys from RFK, providing more than enough fuel to ignite the passion of the Metro faithful. A historic rivalry and a packed Red Bull Arena (including a significant contingent from the capital) make this matchup a must see affair.

A different DC United
In April the Red Bulls absolutely embarrassed DC United with a 4-0 win in RFK, their biggest margin of victory over DC since the rivalry began. Although New York has to feel confident after such a convincing victory, a marquee trade between the teams has changed the equation somewhat.

DC United made the move for De Rosario in the hope that he could fill the role of a creator and set up chances for the likes of Charlie Davies, Josh Wolff and Chris Pontius to finish. In his debut game with DC, the Canadian didn’t disappoint, spurring the attack and notching an assist. Although the sample size is small, DC is hoping for more of the same.

Dax and De Ro have something to prove
In his first two matches with the Red Bulls, Dax McCarty has elicited rave reviews from his teammates, his coach and the fans alike. The feeling is mutual for McCarty who has gushed about Teemu Tainio,  and the South Ward while expressing  his comfort level with the New York style of play.

In the run up to Tonight’s match against his former team, McCarty has made it clear he has something to prove. While DeRo may be the bigger name in MLS, McCarty is determined to show that New York got the better deal. There will be no shortage of motivation for a player who went from DC’s captain to trade bait in half a season.

Meanwhile, De Rosario said he has nothing to prove against his former team. While De Rosario spent only a short time with New York, he is kidding himself if he says he has nothing to prove. A five time MLS best XI player who get’s traded for an unproven 24 year old has to feel some added inspiration against his former team. The two players should meet in the middle of the pitch throughout the game in what will be a fascinating matchup to watch.

Tainio’s suspension looms large
While Wednesday’s match was nearly perfect for New York, a yellow card for Teemu Tainio put a damper on things. Tainio was booked for talking back to the referee and as a result is suspended against DC United for yellow card accumulation.

Tainio drew heaps of praise earlier this season for his ability to shore up the defense, his distribution and his influence on the pace of the match. Lately his admirers haven’t been as outspoken but only because excellent performances have become the standard for the Finn. His absence leaves a big question mark in the middle of the pitch for the Red Bulls.

In lieu of Tainio, Mehdi Ballouchy will likely start alongside McCarty in central midfield. While a chorus of sighs will fill Red Bull Arena when he is announced in the starting XI, Ballouchy has been fairly solid when in a more defensive role. When playing outside of his supposed best position, attacking midfielder, he has been decent cover. Of course decent cover is no substitute for Tainio and the intangibles he provides to the Red Bulls.

Outlook
Even without Tainio the Red Bulls matchup well against DC United. While the addition of De Rosario certainly improves DC, he does nothing to improve their vulnerable and young defense. If DC leaves New York lots of space as they did in their first meeting, the result will be the same. Still, you can never underestimate the unpredictable nature of a rivalry.