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New York Determined to Keep Atlantic Cup Record Alive at RFK

After six regular season matches, the Red Bulls now prepare for the first installment of the Atlantic Cup, the first rivalry match of the 2012 season. It's been over a month since New York last lost a match, and except for last Saturday's home draw with San Jose, the team has been dominating opponents, winning by three-goal margins in three consecutive matches, a first in MLS history. D.C. have also been in decent form. Head coach Ben Olsen's team is unbeaten since its first road match loss at LA.

Sunday marks the first leg of the 2012 Atlantic Cup, the annual regular season competition between New York and D.C. The Red Bulls enter the contest with bragging rights, having taken home the inter-team cup the past two seasons. Last season New York beat United at RFK Stadium with a commanding 4-0 win but lost 1-0 at home. Being tied on points, the cup went to New York having scored more goals.

Time to Show Depth

The injury list continues to grow for the Red Bulls. The team will be without Juan Agudelo (left knee surgery recovery), Teemu Tainio (right knee sprain), Wilman Conde (groin strain), Roy Miller (left knee effusion) and Rafa Marquez (three-game suspension), but head coach Hans Backe remains confident in the depth the team possesses.

"I think everyone knows our basic playing style, so that makes the transition much easier," Backe said. "I'm not quite sure that we will get the right balance, the balance we want in midfield if you look at technical skill, physical strength. Every player now just needs to step up to do their job, and hopefully we can pick up a result."

Red Bulls midfielder Mehdi Ballouchy has worked his way into Backe's starting 11 playing primarily on the left wing. He believes the team is prepared to put in another three-point performance on the road.

"We're looking to bring the same attitude we brought to Columbus," Ballouchy said. "We have guys that can compete at different spots, and I think they should be ready. If Roy's [Miller] out, Connor [Lade] is a good player, so with a little bit of confidence and with the help of the other guys, he should be fine."

New Jersey native and Red Bulls Academy product Connor Lade is one of those players ready to contribute positively to the team. Lade made his MLS debut when he came on for Roy Miller in Saturday's 2-2 draw against San Jose. His second-half entry represented the fourth appearance for a Red Bulls Academy player in a first team match, following the likes of Juan Agudelo, Matt Kassel and Sacir Hot.

"I think I'm getting more and more comfortable every day," Lade said. "I feel like I've been preparing pretty well, and I feel ready to step in there."


The Atlantic Cup has produced memorable encounters through the years. For Lade, the match will have an extra dynamic as he grew up watching the drama unfold.

"I had the opportunity to watch a lot of Red Bull games against D.C. United," Lade said. "They've always been hard-fought. There's always a little extra something in every game, so it's going to be really fun to actually be a part of it."

All-time Regular
Season Record
at RFK Stadium
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Early Goals Trend

The Red Bulls have been taking no time getting on the scoreboard in regular season matches this year. The team has scored within the first five minutes of the match in three occasions: Thierry Henry's home opener goal and Kenny Cooper's tidy finishes at Columbus and against San Jose last weekend. Coach Backe believes the energy and bravery of the team has been the reason for the strong starts to matches.

"We've been lucky scoring early," Backe said. "It's not anything in the game plan. I like our team to start well and brave, and we've been lucky to finish. Thierry [Henry] and Kenny [Cooper] have been very effective in the first five to ten minutes. It's a good situation if you score that early."

The Opponents

D.C. United is coming off a 1-1 home draw against the Montreal Impact. United's leading scorer, Maicon Santos, scored his fourth goal of the season, an equalizer from distance that evaded Montreal keeper Donovan Ricketts. Earlier in the season, the Brazilian thumped home a shot from beyond the box against FC Dallas in the top corner. Santos and Thierry Henry  have both taken 26 shots this season, second only to Sporting KC's Kei Kamara (36).

D.C. United have also successfully integrated homegrown talent. Just over a year ago, D.C. made history when goalkeeper Bill Hamid, defender Ethan White and midfielder Andy Najar became the first three homegrown players to be on the field at the same time last season when D.C. hosted LA.

Two current Red Bulls will be familiar with Sunday's opponents. Red Bulls Midfielder Brandon Barklage was signed in the third round of the 2009 MLS SuperDraft out of St. Louis University. Dax McCarty was signed from D.C. just last year in the swap deal with Dwayne De Rosario.

D.C. also have a knack for producing young, talented players. The club has produced three consecutive Rookie of the Year finalists in Perry Kitchen (2011), Najar (2010) and Chris Pontius (2009).

The MLS calendar is cleared to turn special attention to one of the fiercest rivalries in the country, as the second and third place teams in the Eastern Conference go head-to-head. The Red Bulls will be looking to win the Atlantic Cup for the third consecutive season. All the action kicks off at RFK Sun. at 6pm ET on ESPN2/ESPN Deportes.