Washington, D.C. – It is not the quintessential MLS derby match, but the Columbus Crew and D.C. United will renew their historic rivalry when they square off at RFK Stadium on Saturday.
Both managers have been through the rivalry as players and managers.
Robert Warzycha, in his 18th season with the Crew and fifth as head coach, remembers how strong the early D.C. United squad was.
"D.C. always had very, very good teams when I was a player," Warzycha told the Crew's official website. "It was always tough to go to their place because they had almost all national team players at that time. We played some very good games and it was always difficult for us to win [in Washington]- we didn't win there until 2000."
United's dominance during the infancy of MLS was brought about by the likes of John Harkes, Jeff Agoos, Eddie Pope, Richie Williams, Jaime Moreno and Marco Etcheverry, but it's been a barren spell for the club in recent years.
D.C. has returned to prominence under the guidance of head coach Ben Olsen, who helped the club clinch a playoff berth last season thanks to a late winner in a 3-2 defeat of Columbus at RFK. The win snapped a five-year playoff absence and ousted the Crew from postseason contention.
Not only did it book United's spot in the playoffs, but it served as retribution from the previous campaign when a header from Eddie Gaven helped the Crew earn a 2-1 home win in October, thereby dashing D.C.'s hopes of a playoff spot.
"It's a little bit different now, both teams went through makeovers," Warzycha continued. "I think the games have evened up. We've seen some wins over there, and we've lost a few too. Usually games are very attractive - we score goals and they score goals."
D.C. and Columbus have produced identical records through three games this season, drawing last week to go 1-1-1 and improve to four points.
The Crew opened the scoring against the San Jose Earthquakes but failed to batten down the hatches, conceding 17 minutes from time to finish tied at one goal apiece.
United, meanwhile, finished scoreless against Red Bull New York. The Red Bulls dominated from start to finish, leaving Olsen to bemoan his side's inability to keep possession.
"We pissed the ball away so many times when we didn't need to," Olsen said after the draw. "We are missing that in our game right now. We know that, I know that, the players know. We'll continue to work on it; we'll continue to be better with the ball.
"It's about options, it's about wanting the ball, it's about quality of passing, our forwards have to do a better job of holding the ball up for us. There is a lot to work on with this group, but what we don't need to work on right now it's being a gutsy group."