Rivalry Between Red Bulls and D.C. United Reignites

Three years ago, New York City F.C. came into MLS and was supposed to be the big rival for the New York Red Bulls.

Before that in 2010, it was the Philadelphia Union who was supposed to be the hated team. But nothing can ever mean more to a long time fan of this franchise than a match against D.C. United.

And while New York City and Philadelphia are geographically closer than Washington D.C., no one is closer in hatred to MetroStars and Red Bulls fans than United. No one.

Going back to the first year of MLS in 1996, the rivalry between the then-MetroStars and D.C. United was long and deep. It was the first true rivalry in the league, a rivalry that spills over from the field into the stands between two fan bases that clearly don’t like each other.

Red Bulls head coach Jesse Marsch is an MLS original and was part of that United squad that played the MetroStars in the league’s inaugural season. He remembers those regular season matches, the playoff series and the early days of the league’s oldest rivalry.

“When you play D.C., it’s a big rivalry match. The times that we’ve shown up for the game and physically been up for the challenge. The times that we haven’t, we’ve gotten our butt kicked. It’s pretty cut and dry to make sure that physically and mentally we’re up for the game. You give little reminders, but it’ll be up to the guys now to know what the game will be like, to meet that standard and ultimately set that standard,” Marsch said.

That includes getting into the match and having his team make its mark on the fixture. Last year, the Red Bulls seemed sluggish in their first away match at RFK Stadium, lacking energy and the kind of fight needed in a rivalry match. They lost in what was one of their worst performances of the season.

For a player who was on the D.C. side of the rivalry, as a player and now with New York as a head coach, Marsch understands the importance of being up for these matches. Sometimes tactics go out the window and matches like this one are about fight.

“I remember that playoff series that we had, I remember a lot of things from those matchups,” he said. “That was so long ago that half of our team wasn’t born. Before I came here, I at least had that to draw upon, remembering the history of what that rivalry is. The Atlantic Cup, the first we won, that cup last year we came up short. We’ll talk about that.”

“I said to the guys – ‘we gave little reminders, but again it’s up to us as a team to know what that will require.’”

Adding to this match is that Lloyd Sam is on the other side of the field. The long-time Red Bulls winger, a legend with the club and a fan favorite, was traded to United last summer. The move opened up allocation money and a roster spot for Daniel Royer, an Austrian international who has been solid so far this season.


In the past two weeks, Sam has registered a goal and an assist, his first of the season. He’s peaking ahead of Saturday’s match at Red Bull Arena.

Forward Bradley Wright-Phillips said he’d be texting Sam this week to start the trash talk. Saying “it’ll be great to see Lloyd,” Marsch noted that Sam is a player they have to prep for.

“You know he’ll be motivated. It’ll mean that we’ll have to prepare,” Marsch said. “We did already, we started the process of talking what D.C. will be about. Lloyd will be part of that package, for sure.”

Red Bulls Notes

  • Having missed Sunday’s loss at Orlando City with a ribs injury, right back Connor Lade (injury) trained on Thursday. “Connor trained today so I think he becomes an option for the weekend,” Marsch said.
  • Marsch said that Argentine attacker Gonzalo Veron (hamstring) is “doubtful” for Saturday. Back from seeing a specialist in Argentina, Veron did some running with a member of the training staff and did not practice with his teammates. But, the end to his long hamstring injury seems to be in site. “Gonzalo, we’re being slightly cautious,” Marsch said. “I think he could have trained as well. Hopefully, he’ll be more integrated into training tomorrow.”
  • With a USL match Friday night, several first team players will be loaned down for the match. Brandon Allen, Amir Murrillo and Justin Bilyeu, among several other first team players, will be a part of the USL squad for Friday’s New York Red Bulls II match at Montclair State University.