Soon after the Philadelphia Union were awarded the 16th franchise in Major League soccer, some of the initial players pointed to a natural rivalry with the New York Red Bulls.
The Union completed the portion of their home schedule with a huge 2-1 victory over New York in front of a sellout crowd of 18,578 Saturday at PPL Park. In this inaugural season, the Union managed a split with the Red Bulls in league play.
Looking ahead to the future, the interstate rivalry certainly has some momentum.
“It was great tonight starting with the pregame,” said goalkeeper Brad Knighton. “An I-95 rivalry is there for these two clubs. It was a great atmosphere the whole time and both clubs played hard. I think it will only get better next season and on from there.”
There was a level of intensity that clearly had to do with New York battling Philadelphia.
It sure helps to win and that’s exactly what the Union accomplished in this home finale.
“It is fair and competitive and that’s how it’s supposed to be,” said Union Manager Peter Nowak. “It’s just a good fight. Eleven players against eleven players, not coach against coach, and it’s the players who make the game. It has been good. Unfortunately, we lost the game we were supposed to tie, or even win, in New York and now we won a game against them and it has been very good and very fair.”
Also very physical.
From the moment the game started, players were aggressive all over the field. In rivalry games, you do whatever you can to win the game.
“I thought we played very well against a very good club in New York,” said Michael Orozco Fiscal, who notched his second goal of the season in the 28th minute. “They’re a team fighting for first place and we’re obviously out of the playoff race. For 90 minutes out there, we were fighting for everything. The fans were into it. It was a rivalry-type of game that I think we’ll see a lot of in the coming years.”
Rivalries certainly mean more when both clubs are in playoff contention. But for the Union, it was vital to finish the season at home on a positive note.
“It was a great win against a team not far down the road on I-95 and we evened things up with them,” said defender Jordan Harvey. “They’re a good club, but I think we proved we can play against anyone. We didn’t make things easy for ourselves at times, but we got this done. I think a rivalry is coming. You could see from the supporters groups. We could feel the energy on the field. It was just a great experience. I’m happy we got the win, too, for the fans."