Photo by Jose L. Argueta/ISIphotos.com
By THOMAS FLOYD
For most of D.C. United coach Ben Olsen's playing career, the fight for the Atlantic Cup wasn't much of a rivalry.
The trophy, given to the regular-season series winner between United and the New York Red Bulls, has ended up in the nation's capital in 7 of the 9 seasons since it was established in 2002. But the Red Bulls snapped a streak of six consecutive United wins by claiming the cup last year, Olsen's first as a member of the coaching staff after retiring. And with their star-studded lineup, they are favored to win it again in 2011.
Coming off a 3-0 win over Toronto FC, United is now preparing to renew the rivalry when it meets New York on Thursday night at RFK Stadium.
"It's been a little bit lopsided over the history of this league," Olsen said. "But now it's a little different. They're the favorites and they're the team with the stars, putting on some really good performances as of late. So it's going to be a great task for us, a great measuring stick of where we are at right now because they've got some real players out there. It's a much better team than Toronto is at this point. So it's a big challenge for us, but it's exciting."
Here is some more news from around the Eastern Conference:
It would appear goalkeeper Sean Johnson's mighty struggles during Chicago's 4-2 loss at Portland last week left quite the bitter taste in coach Carlos de los Cobos' mouth. Veteran Jon Conway, who started the Fire's 2-1 loss to Los Angeles on Sunday, will again get the nod in favor of Johnson when Chicago faces Houston this weekend.
"Sean isn't living a good moment,” de los Cobos told reporters. "I don't want to be specific about what happened in each game, but he is not having a good moment and for that reason I made the decision to play Jon Conway."
The Crew, which has scored just four goals in five games, could soon be adding some attacking flair in the form of Argentine midfielder Santiago Prim. The 20-year-old trained with Columbus throughout the preseason, but contract issues with his former club kept him from signing with the Crew.
Those problems have been resolved, however, and Prim is considered a free agent, according to The Columbus Dispatch. Prim is expected to rejoin the Crew at training today.
Bringing in Benny Feilhaber to partner with Shalrie Joseph in central midfield may sure be tempting, but that doesn't mean New England is necessarily holding onto the allocated U.S. national team midfielder. The Houston Chronicle reported the Dynamo is working on a trade offer to acquire Feilhaber's rights from New England.
Should Feilhaber end up in Houston, he would likely partner with Geoff Cameron in the middle. The Dynamo has largely been lacking a creative force centrally since Stuart Holden went to Bolton after the 2009 campaign.
NEW ENGLAND REVOLUTION
One potential key factor in New England's decision to trade or not trade Feilhaber's rights is the form and fitness of former France national team midfielder Ousmane Dabo. The 34-year-old was expected to form a dynamic partnership with Joseph when he signed with New England during the offseason, but he has not played a minute for the Revolution while recovering from a quadriceps strain.
(UPDATED) The Revolution will be keeping Feilhaber and is no longer entertaining trade offers.
Ahead of Saturday's match against Sporting Kansas City, Dabo is listed as questionable.
NEW YORK RED BULLS
The Thierry Henry chronic Achilles injury watch has continued this week, but coach Hans Backe said he expects the Frenchman to play Thursday at D.C. United despite the short week of rest. Henry is coming off his best performance in a Red Bulls uniform, notching a goal and an assist during New York's 3-0 win over San Jose.
Backe also expects midfielder Joel Lindpere to play against United after he exited the San Jose match with an apparent knee ailment.
Centerback Carlos Valdes has received less publicity than goalkeeper Faryd Mondragon, another Colombian brought in during the offseason to shore up Philadelphia's leaky defense, but the 25-year-old has still been a crucial part of the Union's early success as the team has allowed just two goals in five games.
"He's very sophisticated in the tactical part," coach Peter Nowak told PhiladelphiaUnion.com. "He has pure instincts and loves to defend. He's very strong, very competitive. He doesn't let anyone off the hook."
SPORTING KANSAS CITY
French defender Aurelien Collin, signed less than an hour before the transfer window closed last week, is expected to be available for Kansas City's match at New Englandon Saturday, coach Peter Vermes told MLSsoccer.com.
Though known as a centerback, Collin could also be used at right back and defensive midfield for Kansas City, Vermes said.
Toronto's top-to-bottom "total football" overhaul took another step forward Monday when the club announced the impending construction of a $17.5-million academy and training facility.
Toronto's plan to implement its new style from youth squads all the way up to the first team is expected to be boosted by the new facility, which will include three grass fields, an artificial turf field under a bubble, and a field house for locker rooms and offices.