Games with RBNY "always going to be intense," say Union of budding rivals

Before the Union, there were Sons of Ben | Get Me In There: Philadelphia

CHESTER, Pa. – It hasn’t taken the Philadelphia Union and New York Red Bulls long for their I-95 encounters to develop a sharp edge.

Though RBNY had 14 years of MLS experience by the time the Union arrived in 2010, the clubs’ geographic proximity and plenty of existing bad blood between Philadelphia and New York sports fans in general sped things up quite a bit.

“We end up playing each other so many times throughout the year that it’s already a rivalry,” midfielder Brian Carroll said Wednesday night after the Union played EPL side Crystal Palace to a scoreless draw in a friendly. “When you put us against each other that many times during the season, there’s always going to be intense matches going on.”

The rivalry took another step last month, when the Union downed the Red Bulls 2-1 in a US Open Cup quarterfinal, the second straight year Philadelphia knocked their northern neighbors out of the tournament.

Now they’ll meet Sunday at Talen Energy Stadium (7 pm ET, FS1 in the US, MLS LIVE in Canada) for the first time this year in regular-season play, the latest into any season it’s taken the two to meet up. Over the Union’s first six seasons in MLS, the furthest into the season the teams had made it before meeting up was last year, when their first clash was on May 24 at Red Bull Arena.

RBNY still own the all-time regular-season series lead with a 9-5-2 mark, but at the moment they’re playing catchup. Entering the weekend, Philadelphia’s 8-6-5 record (29 points) has them two points ahead of RBNY’s 8-9-3 mark with one game in hand.

Union midfielder Sebastien Le Toux has seen both sides of the rivalry, having played for RBNY in 2012 between two stints with the Union (2010-11, 2013-present).

“When I was [in New York], the Union were still not a long time in the league so the rivalry was not really too big for the Red Bulls,” Le Toux said. “But now, the fact that we are in front of them in the standings and we are [having] a good season and there’s more years between us now in the league [...] I’m sure there’s more respect from them to us.”

The Union overcame a 1-0 second-half deficit in the US Open match two weeks ago, via two goals from Chris Pontius. Emotions ran high at Talen Energy Stadium that night, with Red Bulls head coach Jesse Marsch and Philadelphia assistant Mike Sorber getting ejected in the game’s final minutes.

“It’s going to be an intense game,” Carroll said. “We play each other a lot throughout the season and it’s just something that you don’t really have to motivate yourself too much to get up for because you want to show well for your club, you want to do everything you can to put on a good performance and try to come away with the win.”