2. D.C. United
No other team in the league has Atlanta’s number like D.C. United. In six matches between these teams, D.C. are winners of four, including a season sweep in 2017. Ironically, Atlanta finished as the fourth best team in MLS in 2017, while D.C. finished second to last. Somehow, D.C. managed to win all three matches.
Atlanta grabbed their first win in 2018 against D.C. at home in front of what was then a record-breaking crowd. This win finally took the pressure off Atlanta. The Five Stripes followed up that 3-1 win with another 3-1 win in July. That match featured Josef Martinez’s record-breaking sixth hat trick in MLS play.
Unfortunately, Atlanta’s winning magic against D.C. didn’t last long. Over Labor Day weekend these teams met for their final meeting of the season, this time in D.C. The Black and Red made things tough for Atlanta, and the teams were level at the half, 1-1. In the second half DC took over and eventually won 3-1.
D.C. should be considered a rival for no reason other than they are difficult for Atlanta to beat. They are the proverbial monkey on Atlanta’s back. It seemed like the problem was nixed earlier this season, but the most recent match shows otherwise. The intensity between these teams is not very present, and there’s hardly any banter between players and coaches. But the fact that Atlanta can’t defeat a seemingly easy opponent qualifies D.C. as one of the top candidates for a true rival.