Believe it or not, the 2016 MLS season is quickly nearing its end—which also means it's time for the last game in the Atlantic Cup rivalry, aka the best rivalry, aka good god do we hate the New York Red Bulls.
But however much we may want a win for D.C. United in this match-up, we're certainly not expecting one.
We need this game. At this point, you need to beat the top teams to have the points necessary to be in the playoffs at the end of the season so this game is huge. Hostile environment on 9/11 will make for a great atmosphere and lots of fireworks on the field. In the end, however, I think we only emerge with 1 goal and 1 point. 1-1 draw, Mullins with the goal, but we take the Atlantic Cup home with us.
Cribbing something I rambled about earlier this week, the Metros may be missing their first choice outside mids Alex Muyl and Mike Grella, but will probably replace them with a Designated Player (Gonzalo Veron) and a newly acquired winger that a transfer fee was thrown out for. In between that, the return of the League Leaders in goals (Bradley Wright-Phillips) and assists (Sacha Kljestan), D.C. being without Luciano Acosta, D.C.'s abysmal record on the road this year, and D.C.'s continued lack of offense at RBA (no goals in 5 games and change), New York wins 2-0, and whatever Atlantic Cup tie breaking thing happens, happens.
Without Acosta, D.C. loses some unpredictability in its attack. So back to the usual grind-it-out form, which depends almost entirely on our defense playing well. Gulp. I'm going to watch for Marcelo v. McCarty duels, as Marcelo seems to have a calm, Zen-like way of getting under some players' skins and that would be delightful here. Unfortunately, though, New York wins, 3-1.
The Metros are getting their midfield trio back together just as the Black-and-Red lose their maestro. Expect this to keep the general "Red Bulls keep the ball" dynamic from the rivalry's recent history going, for this weekend at least. United will have the advantage on the outside, though, with in-form Patrick Nyarko and shoulder-chip-having Lloyd Sam lining up against second-choice players. In the end, I think BWP finds the net twice, which is enough to overcome Sam's opening tally. 2-1 to the bad guys, as United claim the Atlantic Cup but lose ground in the playoff race.
Not having Luciano Acosta is going to hurt, but I'm not sure even he would make a difference in this one on the road. I've had (hopeful) visions of a very early goal, but I'm not even certain of that. D.C. United hasn't scored a goal at Red Bull Arena since August 31, 2013, a scoreless streak of five matches in New Jersey. I think that streak will continue on Sunday. 2-0 to New Jersey's team. The goal scorers don't matter.
This one seems like it would be a simple loss for the Black-and-Red—sometimes that's how it goes, and probably how it should go tomorrow. But for whatever reason, I find myself believing that the visitors will somehow manage to leave New Jersey with a hard-fought, ugly point. Emphasis on the hard-fought and ugly. But give me 1-1, with a Nick DeLeon goal earning DCU the draw.
Those are our predictions. Let us know yours in the comments! But first, your poll for this week: