Tim Parker (center) : “They’re going to look to come at us and put pressure on us, but we obviously just have to weather that storm.” (Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports)
HARRISON, N.J. — The Red Bulls will take on a familiar foe in unfamiliar surroundings with a new face Wednesday night.
D.C. United will welcome its long-time rival for its second game at Audi Field for the 8 p.m. encounter.
Former England international Wayne Rooney will wear the D.C. colors as the hosts will try to start their climb out of the MLS Eastern Conference basement. United (14 points) has a 3-8-5 mark, the second worst record of the league’s 23 teams.
The Red Bulls? The third-place side (12-5-2, 38) will try to move past second-place New York City FC (12-4-4, 40) in the conference.
“I was part of the league in ‘96 when the classic battles were taking place,” Red Bulls head coach Chris Armas said. “I was on the LA Galaxy and the Chicago Fire and now I’m with the Red Bulls, so it’s always been such a difficult opponent in RFK. So will it be different? I think it will be different. It’s synonymous, RFK with DC, with the classic rival. But I do think it will be a special one too.
“You expect a packed house and I think of all the clubs out there they deserve the building. Early on they were the first ones on the map with trophies and tradition and culture. It’ll be cool seeing what they have going down there. I’m proud of that organization. In some ways you feel part of that early stuff that went on.”
United, which is 1-2-2 in its past five games, will play 13 of its remaining matches at Audi Field. It has a 2-0-1 home record this season. If D.C. can get some momentum going at home, it can be a dangerous side down the stretch.
“They’ve kind of been clicking lately, so we have to be ready for them — especially at their home field to kind of take advantage of us early on,” Red Bulls center back Tim Parker said. “They’re going to look to come at us and put pressure on us, but we obviously just have to weather that storm and make sure that we can kind of get through that first 15-20 minutes.”
The Red Bulls have gotten off to slow starts since Armas took over for the departed Jesse Marsch, so a quick bolt out of the gate will be quite helpful.
“D.C., the game is pretty close,” center back Aurelien Collin said. “They are very good attackers and the counterattack. We just have to be careful because their physicality is always in a game against D.C. We have to be careful that they can’t take us with the quality they have especially right now. On top of that is Rooney and we expect very big strikers. So we’re ready for that.”