The Early Days: What made Atlantic Cup great

Major League Soccer's most storied rivalry got an early push from fans

For those that have been around the Atlantic Cup thelongest, there was a seminal moment in Major League Soccer’s inaugural campaignthat turned the competition into a proper rivalry.

In the first round of the first playoffs in MLS history,D.C. United and the New York/New Jersey MetroStars were opposing forces on acollision course.

“That’s when the first ignition spark of the rivalry wastriggered,” said veteran broadcaster Dave Johnson, who was on play-by-play dutyfor the series’ decisive third match. “The MetroStars were kind of a glamourclub going in and I don’t think D.C. had earned that reputation yet.  There were some contentious moments anda shootout, and it just sort of triggered things.”

Jaime Moreno was on the field for those formative moments,tallying a goal and an assist during the infamous three-game set.  But the Bolivian, who played on eachside of the I-95 duel during his fifteen year career, points to both sets offans as the source for what sets the Atlantic Cup apart.

“They don’t like each other that is for sure,” Moreno saidearlier this week. “That even created a better atmosphere, seeing the fans goat each other.  It was always areally special game.”

Both Johnson and Moreno pointed to geography as an obviousreason for the Atlantic Cup’s rapid rise to the top of the MLS rivalry heap.But while proximity is an easy default when trying to explain away sportinghostilities, there is something especially tense about the dynamic betweenWashington and New York.

“We are talking about two very powerful cities,” Johnsonsaid.  “We like to call Washingtonthe capital of the free world, but New York has Broadway and a few things goingfor it.  It goes right down to adebate about everything.”

D.C. leads the all-time series with 31 wins to New York’s 19victories.  There have been justseven ties over the 57 league meetings, but – after all these years - who’scounting?

Well, Moreno for one.

“It was always special playing them,” added the man whoretired in 2010 as Major League Soccer’s leading scorer.  “So far I think we are ahead of them.”