Rivalries renewed in MLS triple header
Portland vs Seattle. Houston vs Dallas. New York vs, um, New York. Three huge MLS matches on tap this weekend, as the league unleashes its first of two crunch Heineken Rivalry Weeks.
But what makes these rivalries tick, what fuels the fire? Kitbag heads Stateside to find out.
Friday 23 June
Houston Dynamo vs FC Dallas
BBVA Compass Stadium
The opening game of Heineken Rivalry Week sees the Texas Derby take centre stage.
Houston Dynamo vs FC Dallas is for more than just bragging rights. After all, how many clubs can say they compete for a cannon?
Yes, that’s right, an actual cannon called ‘El Capitán’.
The battle for ‘El Capitán’ is a true highlight of the MLS season, with the unique prize awarded to the team with the best head-to-head record.
After Houston won it the first two seasons, Dallas’ success in 2008 saw them take the cannon home – where they would soon start firing it on matchdays, whenever the Toros scored a goal.
Then, after getting it back in 2011, the Dynamo would start a tradition of inviting famous faces to fire the cannon before kick-off. You don’t get that in the Premier League.
With six ‘El Capitán’ titles to Dallas’ five, Houston have a slight edge over their state rivals – but can their shooting on the pitch match up? We’ll see this Friday night.
Saturday 24 June
New York Red Bulls vs New York City
Red Bull Arena
On Saturday, the city that never sleeps welcomes Heineken Rivalry Week for its own derby.
In the early days of the MLS, the MetroStars were the NY/NJ area’s one and only club.
After mixed results, a 2006 takeover helped the renamed New York Red Bulls fly to new heights – including a first ever MLS Cup Final two years later.
However, in 2015, their dominance of the Big Apple would be threatened like never before, as Manchester City and the New York Yankees teamed up to create New York City FC.
New York’s newest club would soon make former Red Bull Claudio Reyna their first ever employee – while a ball had not even been kicked, the Hudson River Rivalry had begun.
With history on one side and an iconic city location on the other, the first New York derby would be played in May 2015, with the Red Bulls running out 2-1 winners.
In all, the Bulls have won five of the last six MLS meetings between the neighbouring sides.
However, with the likes of Andrea Pirlo and David Villa in their squad, NYC have the talent to turn their run around – with the world watching, this weekend would be the perfect time.
Sunday 25 June
Portland Timbers vs Seattle Sounders
Rounding off the weekend, Sunday afternoon pits Portland against Seattle in the latest round of America’s biggest soccer feud – one the fans have really made their own.
With the cities only a few hours apart, this northwest rivalry really heated up in 2009, as the Timbers and Sounders were paired together in the US Open Cup.
That day, Portland’s passionate fans put together a huge display, showing mascot Timber Jim taking a chainsaw to Seattle’s most famous landmark, the Space Needle.
Two years on, the Timbers’ arrival in the MLS saw an even bigger banner display (the biggest in league history), with the message “It Takes An Army To Raise A Club”.
In reply, Seattle fans would fly a massive flag reading “It Takes A Sounder To Raise A Trophy” … and just like that, the banner wars were well and truly on. And we’re not kidding.
In all, Portland have claimed five top flight victories over Seattle, with the 2016 MLS champions coming out on top on nine different occasions.
Interestingly, the hosts have won this fixture on eight out of nine occasions – which leads us to fancy Portland’s chances of causing an upset this weekend.