Just as both sides started their histories in 1996, the Crew and D.C. United look to start their respective 2014 MLS regular season campaigns out on the right foot when the two meet at RFK Stadium on Saturday night (7:00 p.m. ET / Time Warner Cable SportsChannel).
Though the Black-and-Red finished 2013 with a League-worst 16 points, new Crew Sporting Director and Head Coach Gregg Berhalter believes Saturday's tilt will be a test for the Black & Gold. D.C. used its offseason to complement a talented core of Bill Hamid, Perry Kitchen and Chris Pontius with proven MLS veterans Bobby Boswell, Sean Franklin, Eddie Johnson and Fabian Espíndola among others.
"It's going to be a tough game," Berhalter said. "[United] added a lot of veteran pieces to their lineup and it's a good group. I know that it's a group that can kind of control itself, by that I mean they have a lot of veterans that can push the game when they need to do it. They're smart enough to control it.
"It's going to be a difficult game."
Tactically, United is expected to bring a similar style to the one it has employed in the past under third-year Head Coach Ben Olsen. Even with different personnel, Berhalter is sure he has an idea of what to expect against D.C.
"We're very familiar with the core group of players that they had there already, that's extremely helpful," Berhalter explained. "It gives us a little insight into the mentality of the group. I'm not saying that's everything, but it's nice to have that insight."
The Crew is currently riding the momentum of an undefeated preseason, capped by a 4-1 win over reigning MLS Cup champion Sporting Kansas City. Though the matches have increased in importance, midfielder Wil Trapp expects the positive results to carry over into the Regular Season.
"You're still playing 90 minutes, you're still playing a game," Trapp said. "Some teams might change the way they're going about things from preseason to the Regular Season, but we got results and I think we played well. It's going to be, definitely, a little more tough, but at the same time I think we just need to have confidence in ourselves and confidence in our style of play."
The Crew is 23-25-8 all-time against D.C. United, and defeated the Black-and-Red in each of the two meeting between the clubs in 2013.