Crew faces no easy task on the road against D.C. United

Black & Gold hope to defy odds at RFK Stadium

Carlos Mendes

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Dating back to Major League Soccer's inception in 1996, the Crew and D.C. United have forged one of the League's most competitive rivalries. Unfortunately for the Black & Gold, that rivalry includes a 6-17-3 MLS regular season road record against United.

If the Crew hopes to make the 2012 MLS Cup Playoffs, it will have reverse its fortunes at RFK Stadium on Saturday to secure a crucial three points away from home.

"Every year is different," Crew Head Coach Robert Warzycha said. "They have different players, we have different players. But I think the rivalry is the same. It's always tough to play in D.C., but knowing what we have to do and how heavy the game is: we have to go over there and win."

Ben Olsen and United have made RFK Stadium a fortress this season, only losing once in the Capital. The Black-and-Red's only home loss was a 1-0 defeat in the season opener against Sporting Kansas City.

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Carlos Mendes is only in his first season with Columbus, but the veteran defender has experienced the hostility of RFK Stadium thorugh the eyes of a fellow rival during his seven seasons with the New York Red Bulls.

"[RFK Stadium] is one of the toughest stadiums to play in," Mendes explained. "Obviously, [D.C. United] has a really good home record. We have a lot of work to do, but we have confidence though. We have to stay organized and compact and not give up anything too easy. I think we'll be okay."

The defender continued, "[D.C. United] does a good job with their mentality. They come at you at home. They bring the game to you and they try to jump on you. When you're on the road, it's tough. It's a tough place to play."

When asked what made the fans in Washington different, Mendes said it was the passion and close proximity of United's supporters to the playing field.

"[The fans] are good," Mendes explained. "They're right on top of you on the one side. They're passionate. It's an Eastern Conference game, a big rivalry. They will be loud."

Undaunted, Mendes and the Crew are looking forward to the opportunity of boosting the Black & Gold's playoff hopes and spoiling United's postseason aspirations on the road this weekend.

"It's exciting. This time of year is what you play for. It's a must-win to get in the playoffs. It all comes down to this. We're excited. It's tough, but it's a good atmosphere to be in."