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Red Bulls excited for first look at Audi Field, Wayne Rooney in new rivalry chapter vs. DC United

Jul 14, 2018; Washington, DC, USA; D.C. United forward Wayne Rooney (9) passes the ball against the Vancouver Whitecaps at Audi Field. (Geoff Burke/USA TODAY Sports)

Play a word association game with Chris Armas and likely two phrases will immediately come to his mind when you mention D.C. United — RFK Stadium and greatness.

That’s the D.C. United the New York Red Bulls coach knew when he came into Major League Soccer as a player, the league’s first juggernaut that won trophies, and especially won their games at home.

“Out of all the clubs out there, they deserve the building,” Armas said after training Monday, referring to Audi Field. “They were the first ones on the map with trophies and tradition and culture so it will be cool seeing what they have going there. I’m proud of that organization and in some ways you feel a part of that early stuff that went on.”

The last play at RFK was a Red Bulls victory on Oct. 22, as Michael Amir Murillo and Gonzalo Veron struck for second-half goals after Paul Arriola put D.C. in front in the 45th minute.

Now, the Red Bulls are looking to hand D.C. United their first loss at their new home when the Atlantic Cup rivalry moves to Audi Field for the first time Wednesday night.

“It’s always been such a difficult opponent in RFK so will it be different? I think it will be different,” Armas said. “It’s synonymous — RFK with DC. But I do think it will be a special one too. You expect a packed house.”

And Armas expects a D.C. United team he says is “in a really good way right now,” despite coming off a 3-1 loss at Atlanta United on Saturday.

That game was at Mercedes-Benz Stadium. Wednesday night, they’re at Audi Field where they won their only game — 3-1 over the Vancouver Whitecaps.

“They have such an attacking group that’s dynamic and they have really good balance right now,” Armas said. “Obviously adding Wayne Rooney makes it always interesting and a challenge. We know what he can still provide for them. He’s such a good passer, in addition to the goals he can create.”

Ah yes, Wayne Rooney. The former Manchester United and Everton forward made his MLS debut in the Audi Field opener and earned his first start vs. Atlanta on Saturday. The 32-year-old Designated Player is someone Red Bulls defender Tim Parker said he was a big fan of while growing up in Hicksville, Long Island.

“It’s great that MLS is getting these kind of players now, who have played at high levels and are continuing to come here and help the younger guys and obviously help us Americans grow the game,” Parker said. “It’s going to be fun to play against him and it will be an experience for sure.”

Growing up in Argentina, Kaku also marveled at Rooney’s exploits in the English Premier League and he’s excited to face him on Wednesday night.

“I’ve only seen him on TV, but the trajectory of his career has been remarkable,” Kaku said through a translator. “It’s Wayne Rooney. At the end of the day, it’s good for MLS to be able to see him play here. Overall, I’m just enjoying it.”

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