HANOVER, N.J. – For a rivalry that has raged on for 20 years, the New York-D.C. matchups have been fairly even.
Since their first meeting in 1996, New York stands at 25-33-10 in regular season matchups against United. But in recent years, the Red Bulls have enjoyed the better of the rivalry.
Facing off in the playoffs in each of the last two seasons, the Red Bulls managed to advance at the expense of their longest-standing foe. And in 2015, New York managed a 4-0-1 record against D.C. over their five regular season and playoff matchups.
“You can’t really do better than last year with both rivalry matchups,” midfielder Lloyd Sam said. “We just want to keep it going. We want to win every game we go in to.”
Easier said than done, as the Red Bulls are well aware that United will be gunning for them now more than ever.
“We were prepared for them, so we know that they’ll try to kick our butts this time,” midfielder Sacha Kljestan told NewYorkRedBulls.com. “They’ll be physical against us and not let us play our style, but we’ll always try to impose our will on the game, press them, win balls up the field and turn them into chances. Overall, being focused and being tuned in for 90 minutes every time we played them last season was a real big help.”
Turning the page to 2016, both D.C. and New York have had their struggles out of the gate. And while the Red Bulls have seemed to turn a corner—unbeaten in their last three—head coach Jesse Marsch will not be taking United lightly come Friday night.
“We know that D.C. has had some mixed performances as of late, but we’ll get their absolute best; that’s what makes this game great,” he told reporters. “We’ll give our absolute best too, so it sets up for a really good matchup.
“We know they’re physical, they’re going to foul us a lot, so we’ll need to be up for the challenge. You can’t think that it’s going to be a pass around or making pretty plays. It has to be about making sure that you set the standard of the game. Then, we feel strongly that our football will start to establish itself.”
Win, lose or draw, these matches tend to play out in a similar fashion, with plenty of intensity and physicality.
The Red Bulls have managed to navigate those battles quite well in recent times, but despite their recent success over United, captain Dax McCarty insisted that the past should remain in the rearview.
“We just have to forget about last year,” he stated. “ I think we’ve already done too much talking about last year in terms of comparing this year and last year. We’re proud of what we accomplished, but this is a totally new year with totally new challenges.”
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