Sitting at his perch on the touchline between Robert Warzycha and Ben Olsen for Saturday's broadcast on NBC Sports Network, former Crew midfielder and TV analyst Kyle Martino knows a thing or two about the Crew vs. D.C. United rivalry. Drafted by the Black & Gold in 2002, and winning the League's Rookie of the Year award that season, Martino played five seasons in Columbus to get his fill of the original MLS rivalry.
"It's funny. Statistically, the Crew has done pretty well in this rivalry, but that's not how I remember it," Martino recalled. "I remember coming to RFK [Stadium] and always getting our butts handed to us. It's funny, I was talking to Ben Olsen yesterday and we were sort of reminiscing about the past. We always called RFK the parking lot because the field was always hard as a parking lot.
Martino continued: "We would always come out and the Ben Olsens, the Marco Etcheverrys, the Christian Gómezes and just running in circles. I remember looking over at Brian Maisonneuve a couple times, with our tongues hanging out, and just saying 'How do we get this ball and how do we get into this game?' This was always a tough place to come."
Martino's favorite rivalry memory concerning the Crew and D.C. United includes a chance swap of cleats with a future hero for the Black & Gold.
"My favorite memory of the rivalry is when I showed up one time and I'd forgotten to put my cleats in the cleat bag. I was in the locker room beforehand and I didn't have any cleats, and I'm like 'Oh my god, what am I going to do?'"
He continued: "I remembered from the U.S. National Team that [then-D.C. United midfielder] Brian Carroll and I had the same size shoe. I had someone go over the to the D.C. locker room and ask Brian Carroll if I could borrow a pair of his cleats. In that game, Brian and I went against each other. He was playing against me in the center of midfield and I was wearing his cleats, which I thought was hilarious."
While Martino recalls his time with the Crew fondly, he does not see things going the Black & Gold's way on Saturday.
"My prediction is a D.C. win," he boldly stated. "I think D.C. kind of got their bell rung in New York last week and they've turned this place into a fortress. I think the Crew performed really well in LA and Vancouver. There are some real bright spots in the team. The home tie [against San Jose] was a bit of a disappointment to them, so they're going to be pumped and ready to go today. But I think this is a return to the RFK that I remember, which is a place you don't come and steal points easily."
Martino and Arlo White will have the call on NBC Sports Network. Kickoff is slated for 3:30 p.m. ET.