The rivalry between D.C. United and the New York Red Bulls is one of the longest standing in Major League Soccer, dating to the league's inaugural season in 1996, even if it is one-sided. United is 3-0 in playoff series against New York, and two of the three times they've met in history, United has gone through New York to win an MLS Cup -- in 1996 and 2004.
But not a single player that will play Saturday at Red Bull Arena (8 p.m., NBC Sports Network) was there when the teams last met in the 2006 postseason. In each of the years since, different players have stood out in the regular-season series.
In 2007, it was Ben Olsen -- the only one left on either sideline who played six years ago -- who had a hat trick in a 4-2 win at RFK Stadium and scored first in a 3-1 victory later in the season.
In 2008, Luciano Emilio also scored three times in United's 4-1 triumph in June. Two months later, Juan Pablo Angel had the first two of four unanswered New York goals in a win by the same margin.
In 2009, D.C. rookies Rodney Wallace and Chris Pontius both scored in their first game against the Red Bulls -- Pontius has five goals against New York this season alone.
In 2010, Angel nabbed his team's record-tying sixth goal against United, and last year Thierry Henry had a pair of goals in a 4-0 drubbing at RFK.
New York also has other heroes, including former United defender Brandon Barklage, who scored twice in the Red Bulls' 3-2 win in June. Dax McCarty, a supposed critical piece of United's rebuilding effort when he was acquired prior to the 2011 season, was misused in Washington then dealt to the Red Bulls for Dwayne De Rosario. In New York, he's become a crucial midfield anchor who allows freedom for Henry (15 goals, 12 assists) and Kenny Cooper (18 goals, three assists). McCarty also went to the playoffs last year with the Red Bulls, who have been to the postseason three times during United's playoff drought. While United wants to exorcise its playoff demons, the Red Bulls hope to advance for the first time at United's expense.
- Craig Stouffer