IMAGE: lucho red bulls

United prepare for 89th installment of Atlantic Cup rivalry

Characterized by geographical battles, long-standing bad blood, and on-field and off-field intensity, Major League Soccer’s Heineken Rivalry Week escalates the importance of earning three points in some of the biggest matchups of the season.

As the next installment of the storied Atlantic Cup rivalry approaches, D.C. United look to even the score in this year’s Cup series and continue their ascension of the Eastern Conference standings with a win against enemies the New York Red Bulls at Red Bull Arena this Sunday. 

The 89th all-time meeting between United and the Red Bulls features two of the league’s hottest teams. The Black-and-Red’s unbeaten streak stands at five games, including three consecutive wins, while the Red Bulls have earned at least a point in seven of their last eight. Both teams' recent forms will be tested during the league’s fiercest week, and anything can happen in the Atlantic Cup. 

The rivalry between two of MLS' 10 original teams dates back to the inaugural season of the league when D.C. United ousted the New York franchise (then the MetroStars) from the playoffs in the semifinals. Since then, the contentiousness has been fueled by dramatic meetings, playoffs clashes, and general animosity between the players and the fans of two of U.S. Soccer's most historic sides.

With a massive three points on the line, the Black-and-Red will need to match the Red Bulls’ patented physical style of play. A United road victory against New York—which would be the first since 2011—would avenge the Black-and-Red’s only defeat at Audi Field, a 1-0 loss in July, while also pushing the team that much closer to the playoff line. 

The all-time Atlantic Cup rivalry record favors United, as they’ve claimed 13 of 22 Cups. No team has captured consecutive Atlantic Cups since New York did so in 2010 and 2011, and D.C. United will need a victory to continue that trend as the Red Bulls’ prior win at Audi Field gave them the early advantage in the 2018 Atlantic Cup.

Sunday’s game also carries far-reaching implications for both sides in their Eastern Conference playoff standing. In the midst of their rise from the bottom of the table, the Black-and-Red are aiming to get closer to a postseason berth while simultaneously spoiling New York’s bid for the number one spot in the East. Additionally, a win at Red Bull arena would keep United's win streak alive, but more importantly it would allow the Black-and-Red to sustain their momentum as they kick off another three-game week—United host the Philadelphia Union on August 29 then host Atlanta United on September 2. 

With the magnitude of playoff implications and history surrounding Sunday’s matchup, the 89th chapter of the league's oldest rivalry is sure to be as heated as ever. Head to the Black-and-Red's biggest watch party of the year to take in the game with fellow United fans, or tune to FS1 at 7 PM ET. 

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