HANOVER, N.J. – There is no rivalry with the Philadelphia Union, so says many of the longtime, hardcore supporters of the New York Red Bulls. Talk with the team however and the message is clear: Union games are no fun and there is a clear rivalry there.
The longest – and perhaps deepest rivalry in MLS – goes back to 1996 between D.C. United and the then NY/NJ MetroStars. Those games had an element of fan hatred unseen around the nascent league at that time and featured two teams who didn’t like each other much. Fast forward over two decades and United against the Red Bulls is still a rivalry and a heated one at that. So too are matches against New York City FC, contests that Red Bulls fans have no problems getting up for.
But the Union? They will argue that the hate is more on the Pennsylvania side of the derby, not from Red Bulls fans. Still, that won’t stop several bus loads of fans from traveling down from New York and New Jersey to Philadelphia for this match.
After all, Chester is lovely this time of year.
Yet, while Red Bulls fans won’t acknowledge this as a rivalry, it feels that way in the locker room of their team. Saying that “We’ve never had an easy time in Philly,” head coach Jesse Marsch said.
He had no qualms billing this match-up on Saturday night against the Union as a rivalry:
"One of the great things I’ve said about being part of Red Bull, we have a lot of these games. You can go up and down the East Coast and talk about them. You can talk about other little rivalries; we play LA next weekend. That game always has big energy. I like that about being at our club, I think it makes it better. The reality of it is, the proximity of the games in Philly make it so that the fans don’t like each other and the clubs in many ways don’t like each other. We certainly respect them; I have a history with their coaching staff. Jim Curtin and I played together and are good friends. But that also adds to a rivalry, relationships. I’m not trying to hide from the fact that this is a big energy game and a rivalry game."
The Union has struggled this year. They are winless at 0-4-4 and sit at the bottom of the Eastern Conference on just four points. It is a record that is tied for the worst in the league.
Philadelphia, Marsch said, is “a desperate team, a team that will throw everything at us.”
-Midfielder Mike Grella, out for over a month with an injury near his left knee, has been training now for nearly two weeks. He’s made progress in his fitness and while he isn’t fit to start he will make the gameday roster.
-Wednesday, Michael Amir Murillo made his MLS debut in the Red Bulls 2-0 loss at Sporting Kansas City. The Panamanian right back was solid and could be growing into a larger role on the team.
Marsch said that Murillo “had a really good game.”
“With Amir, it’s been a little bit slower than we thought. But when we put new guys into the lineup, I think it’s always key to put them into positions to succeed,” Marsch said, noting the difficulty of the opponent. “We’ve always kind of had an eye with Amir being ready for this week about a month ago. The fact that he kind of got himself going and responded in a really good.”