While the Philadelphia Union don’t have a major rivalry like some of the other teams in Major League Soccer, there is an interstate highway (I-95) that connects them to four other teams in the Northeast (and three teams now in the Southeast). The proximity of the New York teams, New England and D.C. United make it easy for travel to away games and generally speaking these are the teams we see most in a season both in league and Open Cup play.
I caught up with my colleagues at the websites that cover the other four teams in the region to get their thoughts on the Philadelphia Union.
Where does the Union rank in terms of your team’s rivals?
Daniel Feuerstein, Once a Metro: Since the playoff loss, I would say that the Union is considered #3. DC United will always be #1 while NYCFC is #2. The hating part is easy. Because of the distance and the traditional rivalries with the Giants & Eagles, Mets & Phillies, Rangers & Flyers, but the Sixers/Knicks has died down in recent seasons.
Christian Smith, Hudson River Blue: I wouldn’t really rank the Union as rivals per se. We just haven’t had those knock-em-down-drag-em-out battles with them and to this point, we’ve never had any contentious relationship with them. Games with them feel like your ordinary game and don’t have the gravitas or appeal of a game with, say for instance, the Red Bulls or Toronto, at least for me personally. The New York-Philly rivalry seems to be an iconic staple of many American sports. But when it comes to the beautiful game, I feel not enough gasoline has been poured on the fire to make NYCFC fans feel a certain way about the fixture. Not yet, at least.
Jason Anderson, Black and Red United: I suppose it varies depending on when someone became a United fan. For old-school folks like myself, they’re certainly a team I want D.C. to beat more than most teams, but they’re nowhere close to the Red Bulls or Galaxy (and probably 3-4 other teams). For newer fans, they’re probably a couple rungs higher up the ladder.What’s interesting is that within the locker room, I think they might be more of a rival than in the stands. Fans of both teams know that we had several years of near-brawls, bad fouls, and hot tempers at least once a year (usually in the Open Cup), and while the coaching staffs are pretty close and a lot of players have suited up for both sides, the fact is that the games have often had a bit of an edge to them.
Jake Catanese, The Bent Musket: As much as I believe the #I95Cup is a real thing between the Revs, Union, DC and New York teams, the Revs historical rivals have all been forged in the playoffs. Those classic early MLS bouts with the Chicago Fire and soul crushing MLS Cup losses to the LA Galaxy and Houston Dynamo are still on the minds of many when the old “rivalry” conversation pops up. The Red Bulls will always be on the list and as much as I want a Yankees FC-Revs rivalry to be a thing, New England needs a dance partner for a rivalry and right now, no one else is reciprocating the feeling and I don’t expect the Union to break into this list without a handful of epic playoff series in the coming years.
What do you love/hate most about the Union?
Daniel Feuerstein, Once a Metro: What I like about the Union is the dedicated fanbase and the lovely view of the commodore bay bridge with the Delaware River behind the Sons of Ben end.
Christian Smith, Hudson River Blue: I love their badge! It’s sleek, timeless, and seems to really embody the city entirely. For some reason, though, I’m not a fan of the color scheme. I know I’m most definitely in the minority about that seeing as the Union’s kits are some of the most well-liked in the league. But i don’t know — doesn’t work with me.
Jason Anderson, Black and Red United: I think Union fans “get it,” for lack of a better way to put it. Let me tell a story: back in 2012, D.C. and Philly met in the Open Cup, and as always, there was a scuffle with some red cards (Carlos Valdes and Brandon McDonald, this time). The game was at the Maryland SoccerPlex, and there wasn’t much security, so the traveling Union fans ended up about one half-full section away from where all of United’s supporters groups were. Both sides exchanged mocking chants, but everyone was having fun with it...except for one teenager in a Liverpool jersey. He was there for United, and seemed to think that if he sauntered towards the Union fans, people would have his back in some sort of dumb fight in the stands.He came over and started loudly chanting, and Union fans just started laughing at him. United fans saw the situation, and they started laughing too. What in other fanbases could have turned ugly, became just one more thing to laugh about.One thing I do not like about the Union: They’ve kind of dominated the series of late, and I think a lot of fans here share a disdain for Alejandro Bedoya (though last year’s gun control protest at Audi Field may have softened those feelings).
Jake Catanese, The Bent Musket: The Union, in my opinion, is exactly how I would want to start a sports franchise, though whether or not it was successful overall I’ll leave to the opinion of those in Philly. I think only one playoff win/advancement in a decade is nothing to write home about but first team success isn’t everything.
But the focus on their academy setup, starting with an SSS, and not spending boatloads of money early I think let the Union establish themselves without putting unnecessary pressure on the first team to win games and instead focusing on the long term. Not everyone can be Atlanta and I don’t think the Union get enough credit for some of the little things they’ve done, including taking the U.S. Open Cup seriously.
As far as hate? I don’t think hate is the right word, I don’t hate it...but I will never understand DOOP. I don’t get it, it’s fine, I’m 87 years old anyway, I don’t need to get it, whatever makes Philly fans happy.
Who is your favorite/least favorite player on the team?
Daniel Feuerstein, Once a Metro: Favorite player on the Union is Andre Blake. I just think his goalkeeping is fantastic. Love his positioning and reminds me a little bit of a younger Tim Howard. I can’t say I have a least favorite player on the Union right now. Nothing has reached that point just yet. But I also like Mark McKenzie, Bronx Boy you know.
Christian Smith, Hudson River Blue: My favorite Union player is by far Andre Blake. The guy is just a beast and I’m surprised Europe never came calling. I feel like he could’ve definitely thrived in that kind of environment. My least favorite, though, is Alejandro Bedoya. I couldn’t tell even tell you why. Just never cared for him as a player.
Jason Anderson, Black and Red United: Jamiro Monteiro is pretty fun to watch. I’d gladly take him on United’s roster. On the other hand, I think my complaints about Bedoya are pretty representative of the fanbase, so he’s a pretty good answer.
Jake Catanese, The Bent Musket: Andre Blake, University of Connecticut. While I am proud to have Blake as a Husky alum, when he starts standing on his head against the Revolution (which is basically every damn time), my state gets blamed for it among the other things the rest of New England blames CT for.
Aurelien Collin however isn’t on my team, therefore I dislike him and his ability to never get a second yellow card despite me having literal pages of evidence over the years of times he should have been sent off. But while Collin might have a deserved reputation, a lot of that hate should come from a decent amount of respect too.