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Rivalry Week!

Photo: Earl Gardner

According to people I know who watch sports other than soccer, something called “Rivalry Week” is upon us.

Turning to the information superhighway, I learned that Rivalry Week involves college basketball on ESPN. I’ve also learned to lock the bathroom door thanks to Google Instant, according to whom Rihanna is a greater priority based solely on the first two letters.

After calming the wife down, I had a moment to reflect on how the Union’s major rivalries were shaping up. In our short history, we’ve managed to develop some fierce conflicts with certain teams who, for whatever reason, just rub us the wrong way. Sometimes we beat these teams. Sometimes they beat us. Whichever happens, the rivalry itself is the spice of life for anyone who spends an extra hour practicing “No Cups” chants before an NYRB game.

What would a hypothetical “Rivalry Week” look like for Union fans? In a magical world where we could line up the teams we’d most like to see teed up and swatted into the Delaware, who would make the cut? Straight from the deepest recesses of imagination, here’s the Philadelphia Union’s fantasy Rival Week:

Monday: New England Revolution

If only for the obligatory I-95 implications, no Philadelphia rivalry list would be entirely complete without a shot at the greater Boston area. They’re not exactly a threat to our status in the Eastern Conference, and have given their fans very little reason for optimism about the 2013 season.

It’s for that very reason they need to be beaten, and decisively. If the U is going to shake off the perception of themselves as a bottom-of-the-conference team, they need to be especially hard on the company they’d rather not keep. If we can’t beat these guys, it might be 2012 all over again. The Revolution would be the perfect punching pillow on which to exorcise our demons, and a great way to start a hypothetical week of rivalries—beatable, but not complete pushovers. Consider the Union warmed up.

Tuesday: Houston Dynamo

It wouldn’t seem to make much sense to hate on Houston. It also wouldn’t seem to make much sense to place them in the Eastern Conference, but here we are. Obviously, their worst sin against the Blue and Gold was to boot us out of our only playoff run. It doesn’t help that the following season, they stole crucial road points and ruined Hack’s first away game by diving their way to an undeserved victory. The Union took revenge to the tune of 3-1 when the teams met at PPL, but the sting is still there. So, arbitrary as it may seem at first glance, f’ them and the horses they probably literally rode in on.

Wednesday:  Sporting KC

As with Houston (and Seattle, for another one), there’s no geographically logical reason to hate on the boys from Kansas. Somehow, though, their visits to PPL are never less than momentous. Having our preseason optimism blown to pieces by them in this year’s opener sucked—almost as much as decimating them 4-0 last year ruled. Add to which our US Open Cup clash, the fact that they replaced the lamest club name in soccer with the most pretentious, and how Benny Feilhaber seems like kind of an asshole, and you’ve got a legitimate beef. Few things will taste as good as the next time the Blue and Gold beat this team.

Thursday: LA Galaxy

They should count among our rivals for the same reason they should count among everyone’s rivals—they are the closest thing MLS has to the Yankees. They are rich, entitled, their fan base is lazy in their alleged support for the team, and they win. A lot. They are the opposite of the Union.

While the Galaxy panders to their fans with glitter and celebrity DP’s, the Union strives to be worthy of theirs. While the Home Depot Center gradually fills up with “supporters” who show up at their leisure, PPL screams blue-collar defiance into the bedazzled face of cheap gratification. The Union has already won this game before the first whistle blows.

Friday: DC United

What to say about DC?  Just as our supporters loved the Union before they existed, they loathed DC. Yes, it’s an I-95 thing, but it’s so much more. Nowhere more than in a Union/DC game is the hatred between two organizations so blatantly acted out on the pitch. While security forces don’t have to work too hard to keep the fans away from each other, the players go at it in ways that belie soccer’s reputation as a relatively peaceful game. Cleats are raised. Blood is spilled. Officials are nervous, and they should be. If the preseason is any indication, this season’s clashes will reverberate through PPL, and probably do fatal structural damage to RFK “Stadium.”

Saturday:  North Jersey Soda Cows

There is no way to overstate the revulsion, the enmity, the bottom-of-the-gut contempt in which NYRB and its knuckle-dragging fans are held by the followers of Almighty Zolo. Even more remarkable is that it’s entirely earned.

Nothing about this collection of talented whiners with no apparent plans to play together effectively as a team impresses its own sad excuse for a fan base, who can barely fill half of their industrial waste bowl in the best of times. The club is, like many things from North Jersey, merely the refuse of New York, a city so full of equal parts vibrancy and poison as to need an extra state to put the latter in.

They come to Philadelphia and chain link fences are erected around and throughout the park in a noble effort to try to contain a mutual animosity rarely seen outside of Palestine. Where else in American sports are games purposely scheduled so as to discourage attendance? Before long, home games against the Energy Drink Advertisements will be held on Christmas morning in the vain hopes that enough people on either side care more to spend time loving their families than hating their enemies. It won’t work.

PPL security and Chester’s finest will always have their hands full in managing the outer excesses of our mutual scorn; and you haven’t seen outer excesses until you’ve seen the effects of alcohol, industrial pollution, and the general sense of failure and purposelessness that characterize a Red Bull fan let loose on an unsuspecting crowd.

Sunday: Seattle Sounders

Seattle was always destined to be our rival, for exactly the opposite reasons LA was. They are too much like us. Their city is progressive in sports, their fan base is genuinely passionate, and they push the envelope of the game’s popularity in this country with a dedication reminiscent of…well, ours.

The problem is they do it too well. They couldn’t fit their average attendance into two of our proud little stadium. Their success in converting their city into a soccer town is just like ours, only…more so. And it should piss you off.  Granted, they didn’t build their team from scratch the way the Sons of Ben did, but regardless of their head start, Seattle should make an American soccer fan proud and a Philadelphian soccer fan just a little envious.

So that’s it.  A Union Rivalry Week, straight from the part of my imagination that can only be accessed after an attempt at self education turns into an extended surfing session that ends with an almost completely ruined decorative hand towel. Obviously we could never pack this much sweet, delicious rivalry into a single week (except maybe in replays), but a boy can dream.


  1. i never met a reason to hate something from texas i didn’t like.

  2. Don’t forget our biggest rival, Chick-Fil-A 🙂

  3. As much as I do hate the Red Bulls, I hate when people call them anything other than that. Calling them “Pink Cows” or “Soda Cows” (Red Bull isn’t soda) seems to be stooping not only down to their level, but below it. In all honesty, Red Bull saved a franchise that was likely doomed, and without the NY/NJ market MLS would suffer. So I despise every Red Bull fan, and the players equally as much, but I will respect the fact that Red Bull’s presence in MLS is vital to growing and building the sport in this country.

    • I don’t like the nicknames but it has more to do with the fact that I’m pretty sure a 12-year-old made it up.

      • Good point. This article was great and I enjoyed reading it, I just in general am not a fan of the nicknames.

  4. I think that I hate SKC the most now. Their constant moaning and whining to the refs is really annoying. Unfortunately, it starts at the top and that’s how Vermes acts as well.

  5. Southside Johnny says:

    Nice piece and a refreshing switch from last week’s chickenshit. Loved the grilling of the Raging Steers. Hmm. Gives me a strange yen for a mountain oysters hoagie…

  6. Hilariously misguided conclusion; I dunno what Soda Can supporter slept with your girlfriend/wife/whatever, Conor, but don’t let your personal vendettas get in the way of the truth.
    On the field, as you said there should be no question that the main rivalry is with DC – the only reason it doesn’t extend to the supporters’ clubs, I suspect, is because of a soft spot a certain section of the SoBs have for their former “favorite” team.
    I can’t understand enmity toward the hardy fans of the Harrison abortion that have endured one disgrace after another at the hands of their owners over the years.
    Not to put too fine a point on it, but I could probably have a drink with a NYRB supporter, unpleasant though the thought may be; the only drink I’d ever have with a DC supporter is at his wake, celebrating his timely demise.

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