D.C. United take the field at RFK Stadium for the final time on Sunday, Oct. 22 at 4 p.m., facing rivals the New York Red Bulls. United will be looking to finish their time at RFK with a bang, while also pushing for a big win in order to claim the Atlantic Cup for the second consecutive year.
Both of the season's previous meetings between the clubs took place in New Jersey, with the Red Bulls blanking the Black-and-Red 2-0 on April 15 and United responding with a hard-fought draw on Sept. 27. In what is sure to be an emotional day for the Black-and-Red and their supporters, the players will look to bottle that nostalgia-fueled energy and uncap it on a Red Bulls club that has historically performed poorly at RFK.
The Red Bulls last won at RFK in 2013, going 1-4-2 in their last seven matches in the District. All-time, New York is 10-21-6 on United’s home turf and have been ineffective on the road this season, which bodes well for the home team.
Less than a month removed from their last meeting, in which the Black-and-Red gained a crucial point from a Fidel Escobar own goal in the 91st minute, New York and United meet on the final day of the regular season with more than just the Atlantic Cup to play for. The Red Bulls have already clinched a playoff berth and are locked into the Eastern Conference’s sixth seed, but United will be looking to knock their rivals' momentum and send them into the Audi MLS Cup Playoffs off a loss.
The Black-and-Red’s dynamic midfield has elevated the team’s play in recent matches, while also generating excitement for next season’s move to Audi Field. United’s deepest unit will be matched up against a Red Bull midfield led by assist maestro Sacha Kljestan, who leads the league with 17 assists. The eccentric center mid has two assists in two games versus United this season and forms a potent offensive partnership with two-time Golden Boot winner Bradley Wright-Phillips. The Red Bulls are also effective at keeping the ball away from their opponents, averaging 56 percent possession per game this season, the third-best rate in MLS.
United's revamped midfield handled the Red Bulls well on the road last month, though, and will push to use their home-pitch advantage and the emotion of the final match at RFK to outwork the Red Bulls on Sunday. Russell Canouse has been instrumental in the midfield, Using his aggressiveness and grit to pester opponents, force turnovers, and send the counterattack. Zoltán Stieber has also impressed since his acquisition—the Hungarian has repeatedly shown his cleverness on the ball and the skill of his left foot, dropping dimes into the box off corner kicks and crosses. Add in the passion of long-tenured and locally-raised players like Nick DeLeon, Ian Harkes, Jalen Robinson, Chris Korb and Chris Odoi-Atsem, and the adrenaline of the last match at RFK will surely add to the ferocity of the matchup.
With one last call at the only home they have ever know, United will try to close out their tenure at RFK with another Atlantic Cup victory.