MLS’ rivalry week kicks off with two teams that reside along the I-95 corridor of the north-east. DC United and Philadelphia Union have had some cracking matches over the years; including some crazy extra-time US Open Cup games, but their first meeting of 2016 has quite a bit of meaning for both teams. In the past weeks, MLS’ eastern conference went from three teams vying for the top spot to only a four point difference from 1st place and 7th place. Both of these teams are looking to get a win, and move into lead contention. DC is currently in sixth place; a win could propel them to a tie for second. The Union are in third place; a win puts them ahead of everyone in the East. Needless to say this game is important, and a rivalry. So what kind of movement could we see in the East this weekend?
The east is a muddled mess right now, and there could be plenty of movement this weekend that could either help or hurt the Union’s contender status. Here’s what the Standings look like as of right now:
|New York City FC||17||1.42||12||4||3||5|
|New York Red Bulls||13||1.08||12||4||7||1|
|New England Revolution||13||1.08||12||2||3||7|
|Orlando City SC||11||1.1||10||2||3||5|
|Columbus Crew SC||10||1||10||2||4||4|
Six of the ten eastern conference teams are featured in rivalry week games, and the other four also play this weekend. These fixtures will help to show who is real and who is not real in the east. whether the games are rivalries or not, a good result for an eastern conference team means an even more congested leaderboard. This weekends fixtures are:
Philadelphia Union vs DC United
New York City FC vs New York Red Bulls
Toronto FC vs Columbus Crew
Orlando City SC vs Montreal Impact
New England Revolution vs FC Dallas
Chicago Fire vs Houston Dynamo.
The Union look to keep their unbeaten streak at home going. They have yet to lose in Chester, in the newly named Talen Energy Stadium. Their last two home results were ties, but this week is the time to get back in the win column. Coach Jim Curtin said in his weekly press conference that he “doesn’t want to be a .500 team”; one way to not be a .500 team is winning this game. The Union are the favored team according to odds makers. DC United is coming to Philly confident, after an impressive 2-0 win over New York Red Bulls last Friday. Let’s hope the odds are in the Union’s favor on Friday night, and that they keep their home mojo flowing against their bitter rivals. If the Union win, they will have eighteen points, which could be enough to give them the first place ranking in the east if other fixtures play out certain ways.
The New York derby is this Saturday in the Bronx. NYCFC is looking for their first win ever against their rivaled Red Bulls. Union fans should root for a draw in this match, as wins for either New York side makes them look very formidable. New York City is on a five game un beaten streak; this run has given NYCFC a share of the east lead. A win Saturday for them would see them the outright eastern leaders. New York Red Bulls have only lost once in their last five, and their mid-week win over Chicago Fire has moved them above the red line for the first time in 2016. A win for Red Bull’s on Saturday puts them in the top three of the conference. A tie is the best result for Union fans in this one, because either could pass the Union should Philly lose.
Toronto FC and Columbus crew SC renew their rivalry in the Trillium Cup this Saturday north of the border. Union fans will hope for a Columbus win in this one Toronto FC had many people saying they were going to be the team to pull away from the pack in the east a few weeks a go, but recent results have seen Toronto stay in the hunt for the East lead. However, a win for Toronto gives them eighteen points, and possibly a share of the east lead. Columbus has gone from distracted by Kei Kamara, to getting a point from MLS’ leading team Colorado Rapids. This week, a win would give Crew SC thirteen points, and put them back in the mix of the conference. A Columbus result is the best for Union fans to keep scary Toronto at bay for another week.
Orlando City SC hosts Montreal in a “non-rivalry” eastern conference showdown. The result need for the Union to benefit most would be a Orlando win. Orlando has not won a game since April third! They play at home against a good Montreal team, and will have their hands full defensively. Orlando need a win to stay current in the east; a win gives them fourteen points. Montreal is winless in their last five, and this week have to travel from Canada all the way to Orlando. Travel could impact Montreal who just can’t seem to win games. A win would give Montreal nineteen points and possibly the outright eastern conference lead. A win for Orlando keeps Montreal slumping, and gives Union fans hope that their team can be at the top.
New England Revolution host FC Dallas on Saturday. The Revolution welcomed new player Kei Kamara with a win last weekend, and this weekend play a FC Dallas side looking to get back to the top of the west. A win for New England gives them sixteen points and puts them right in the thick of things in the east. Obviously this is an east versus west matchup, so any Union fan would root for the western team, FC Dallas, in this one.
Chicago fire and Houston Dynamo meet on Saturday. It is a match of the two last place teams in both conferences. If Chicago wins they would still be in last place with ten points. Again this is an east and west game, so go western team; Houston. This gives Union fans a chance to root for ex-Union members Chaco Maidana, Andrew Wenger, and Sheanon Williams.
The Union are in the midst of the mess that is the Eastern conference. For the most part, every team is close points-wise. A loss for Philadelphia could have them drop to seventh place, and a win, with some help, could have them in sole possession of the east. Looking at all the matches this weekend here are the results needed for Philly to take first in the east:
Philadelphia Union beats DC United, A draw from the New York derby. Columbus Crew beats Toronto FC, and Orlando City SC beats Montreal Impact.
This is the best case scenario from this coming weekend. MLS rivalry week will determine if the Union stay relevant in the east. A loss to DC United could send the club tumbling down the table, but a win could propel them towards greatness.
Photo credit: Jean-Yves Ahern: USA Today Sports