How supporters' groups view some of MLS Rivalry Week's biggest matchups
MLS Rivalry Week is upon us again. And with those occasions animated as much by the fans as by the players on the field, ESPN FC asked fan reps from some of the teams playing in this weekend's biggest games to give a sense of the mood in their camps leading into these matchups.
Philadelphia Union vs. D.C. United | Talen Energy Stadium
Corey Furlan, Sons of Ben | Philadelphia Union
"This is one of those rivalries where there have been a few tough games on the field, with hard tackles and so on, but off the field there's a fair amount of respect. A bunch of fans from the area used to support D.C. before the Union came along, and now they're joined up with the Sons of Ben, so it's different from the feeling we have about New York teams.
"That said, we've had a couple of games at RFK this season. They beat us 2-1 in the first one, and then when we went on that mini run we put them away 4-0 with some of the sweetest goals you'll see. Be nice to do that again, but in truth this team is neither as bad as the period when we couldn't buy a win, or as good as the run we went on when we finally got a win. It might be the best team the Union has put out, but everyone else has got better too. To be honest I think D.C. is in the same position. But we need to win our home games in the Eastern Conference, and hopefully another run starts here."
Kim Kolb, Screaming Eagles | D.C. United
"D.C. United has had a six-match rough patch recently. One of those loses was (hopefully) the nadir of the season, a 4-0 loss to Philadelphia at RFK back on May 13. The three games since then have seen D.C. start to re-solidify again. The team defending has been stronger even with juggling any of the seven healthy defenders. The offense showed hints of re-emerging during the LA match before the break, and D.C. managed to hold off and then overwhelm Christos FC midweek in U.S. Open Cup play. If the defense can remain solid, can D.C. find some scoring?
"Many D.C. United fans will have a hard time identifying this as a 'rivalry' as there are many friends in the Sons of Ben (where some of the originals were Screaming Eagles and attended games at RFK before the Union existed), and there have been events such as joint tailgates at either stadium. Also there are a fair number of former D.C. employees and players with the Union (Earnie Stewart, Chris Albright and Josh Gros). And there will always be a common foe: the Red Bulls."
New York Red Bulls vs. New York City FC | Red Bull Arena
Tim Hall, Empire Supporters Club | New York Red Bulls
"Round 1 of Derby della Gotham went to the Red Bulls, who knocked NYCFC out of the U.S. Open Cup with a 1-0 win. Now it's on to league play where the red side holds the historic advantage. That may be set to change if the Metros keep playing the way they have thus far in the 2017 campaign. The defense has been in shambles, the offense keep trying to walk the ball into the net and captain Sacha Kljestan has at times looked below average. But if there was ever a time in the interminable MLS season for things to click, doing so against the new neighbors would be nice."
Ben Glidden, board member, Third Rail | New York City FC
"The rivalry is as fierce as ever, it's getting stronger and stronger every year. The team might have struggled in the early days, and people were saying 'How can it be a rivalry when one team is so dominant?' But the team has got so much stronger since the first couple of seasons, and I really see a possibility of us winning all three games in this series this season and flipping that narrative on its head.
"After losing the Open Cup game there last week it might seem strange to be talking about going to Red Bull Arena full of confidence, but the team is playing well, the coach is happy and while the Red Bulls got a much needed win this past weekend, they've really been struggling. NYCFC meanwhile have split a couple of games they should have won, got a great comeback win over Seattle this past weekend and I just think we're going to come out on top here."
Houston Dynamo vs. FC Dallas | BBVA Compass Stadium
James Hromadka, president, Texian Army | Houston Dynamo
"Houston Dynamo home games against FC Dallas are always special. Sometimes the unexpected happens, like Owen Coyle's sole accomplishment as a coach with last year's 5-0 drubbing of South Oklahoma. For this year, there is extra anticipation after FC Dallas chose to unfairly sanction Houston Dynamo supporters groups for three years even though no major incidents seemed to have occurred at Toyota Stadium in Frisco. I say 'seemed to have occurred' because FC Dallas still have not provided Houston supporters any official report as to what was wrong.
"Houston and Dallas are also two of the top teams in the West this year. So, unlike the past few years when only The Cannon was on the line, this year's rivalry games also have an impact on the playoffs. In Houston, flags, banners, streamers and more are going to be out in full force at BBVA Compass Stadium. Mostly for the team that is undefeated at home. But there is a part inside us that is looking forward to showing FC Dallas how good an atmosphere can be in a city where the front office actually likes supporters groups."
Gina Zippilli | FC Dallas supporter
"FCD is coming off of a bit of a skid heading into Rivalry Week. We dropped a couple of games, but have slowly started to regain our form. Last week's draw against Vancouver was good, but a little disappointing. We're hanging in there, though. Jesse Gonzalez made some incredible saves, and Kellyn Acosta is just doing Kellyn things. I'm confident we'll regain our form, soon, and I'm hoping it will be on Friday night.
"The first leg of the Texas derby feels like it was just yesterday, but I think that's because it really was only like a month ago. That was another instance of disappointment by draw, but it's not like we've never won in Houston before. I'm predicting a draw. For once, it will be one I won't be disappointed with."
Portland Timbers vs. Seattle Sounders | Providence Park
Will Conwell, Stumptown Footy | Portland Timbers
"This weekend's match between the Portland Timbers and Seattle Sounders comes at a strange time for the rivalry. The two most recent MLS Cup winners find themselves facing off for the third time in just under a month, following a 1-0 Sounders win in the Emerald City back in late May and a 2-1 Sounders home win in the U.S. Open Cup just last Tuesday. Now, however, the sides will play at Providence Park, where the Timbers have posted a 5-1-2 record in 2017, including a pair of 2-0 wins in their last two home games.
"Both the Timbers and Sounders play midweek before this match, but despite being constantly matched up against their rivals and coming into this match on short rest, expect the usual Cascadian intensity to be on display on Sunday as the Sounders strive to break out of their post-MLS Cup slump and the Timbers look to keep pace with the pack at the top of the Western Conference.
"From a fan's point of view, the constant matches against the Sounders takes something away from the anticipation of the derby, but on game day that all goes out the window. The Timbers Army will bring it on Sunday -- chanting, singing and displaying their usual high-quality tifo -- and the team will bring it as well with the attacking quartet of Darlington Nagbe, Diego Valeri, Sebastian Blanco and Fanendo Adi set for an explosive attacking performance against a Sounders defense that has been poor on the road."
Kevin Zelko, Gorilla FC | Seattle Sounders
"Cascadia is nearly all tied up between all three teams at this point. Anything can happen. It's been too long since we have had the Cascadia Cup in Seattle, and we want George back!
"Sounders need to turn around this season and as both sets of supporters know very well, this is possible at this part of the season. Last year's MLS Cup looked way beyond our reach, as the Timbers' win did the year before. Seattle comes into the match in a bit of a daze with Clint Dempsey not being able to right the ship, and the chemistry with Nicolas Lodeiro appears to be misplaced. Cristian Roldan has been on top of his game of late and should look to finish strong in Portland. Osvaldo Alonso salivates at the mouth in excitement for Timbers matches and will look to stop Valeri and Nagbe. Portland has a thin bench, so if we can tire them out, look for a high-scoring match.
"With our last win vs. Timbers in Open Cup play and another in late May, this game might be just what we needed."
Graham Parker writes for ESPN FC, FourFourTwo and Howler. He covers MLS and the U.S. national teams. Follow him on Twitter @grahamparkerfc.