Major League Soccer got it right with D.C. United and New York. Other rivalries have come and gone and there’s more than a little dust getting kicked up in the Rockies and in the Pacific Northwest, but there’s still no feud with more fire than the old-school throwdown between the Nation's Capital and the Big Apple in the Atlantic Cup, which resumes Thursday (8 pm, ESPN2/Deportes).
Oh, wait. The two sides can’t even agree on what to call this rivalry, let alone how to somehow keep it civil on the field and in the stands. Go figure.
But despite all the bad blood, there have been more than a few players who have, in fact, switched teams and gone to the dark side. Bruce Arena even famously coached both teams before switching coasts to lead the LA Galaxy in 2008 and leaving the rivalry behind.
PHOTO GALLERY: D.C. United vs. New York through the years
In honor of the latest revival of the league’s oldest rivalry, this week’s Three For Thursday looks at the best players to play for both DC and New York, and who somehow escaped unscathed by the fans.
[inline_node:333279]1. Jaime Moreno – The fans who think Moreno is a DC lifer may have somehow forgotten that the league’s all-time leading scorer actually suited up for the dreaded MetroStars in 2003.
After a falling out with former United boss Ray Hudson, Moreno was shipped up I-95 in a trade that also involved Eddie Pope, Mike Petke and Richie Williams, and Moreno floundered in his only season out of DC.
He scored just two goals in 11 appearances as the MetroStars finished third in the East and were bounced quickly from the postseason, and he was back in DC (and back to his old self) with new head coach Peter Nowak by 2004.
2. Mike Petke – Talk to Petke for one second and it’s clear: He’s a New Yawker, through and through. But after five great years in New York – including three All-Star nods – Petke took his blonde ambition to Washington in 2003, where he spent two productive seasons there and won the MLS Cup in 2004 before he was shipped to Colorado. He returned to New York for one last go-round in 2009, cementing his place as a fan favorite and a franchise legend before he retired after last season.
[inline_node:334463]3. Eddie Pope – The longtime US national team stalwart is about as iconic as they get in DC lore, thanks to his two MLS Cups in 1996 and 1997 and an emphatic goal that helped push United past Brazilian side Vasco de Gama in the 1998 InterAmerican Cup.
He spent seven seasons with DC and won the 1997 MLS Defender of the Year, but injuries had made him expendable by the time he was traded to New York after the 2002 season.
He started 42 games in two seasons with New York and eventually ended his career with Real Salt Lake, but, like Moreno and Petke, it’s still tough to imagine he ever actually played for the bad guys.