It's a staple of rivalry games across all sports and all countries – there's always that one player on the opposite team that's a lightning rod, and MLS is no different. As Heineken Rivalry Week got underway on Wednesday night, here's a quick drive through some of the players involved in this week's matches that rival fans most love to hate.
On the field, most importantly, Wright-Phillips has been outstanding in the Hudson River Derby and continued as such on Wednesday night, scoring as the derby ended 1-1. That now gives BWP 12 goals in 12 games against NYCFC. His form has carried from lethal feet in front of goal to clinical Twitter-fingers in front of his phone, responding to a fan after NYCFC beat the Red Bulls 1-0 in their last meeting.
I can’t believe he liked it 🤣🤣🤣🤣 the audacity, enjoy guys!! Beating us once in a while must feel great, see ya soon. Signing out love daddy https://t.co/PCHJ2G1stk— Brad Wright-Phillips (@BWPNINENINE) July 9, 2018
"Signing out love daddy" is an instant-classic Twitter-beef dismount.
But NYCFC isn't the only rivalry that No. 99 gets up for. He has seven regular-season goals in the Atlantic Cup against D.C. United, plus another two postseason goals, and scored his 100th goal at Audi Field in July.
Atlanta United at Orlando City SC, Fri. 8pm ET (ESPN - full TV & streaming info)
On top of that, he plays with an edge, doesn't shy from physicality and has a ruthless panache. Plus, he's scored in every game he's played against the Lions: five goals in three games, including a hat-trick in a 3-3 draw.
How much would he love to break the MLS single-season scoring record in Orlando City? Other than at home, there's probably no ground in the league he'd rather take the record at.
Orlando City SC vs Atlanta United, Fri. 8pm ET (ESPN - full TV & streaming info)
Dwyer shares similar qualities with Martinez: a speedy, smart and feisty striker. Both have mean streaks and brash never-back-down mentalities.
The Orlando striker made his MLS debut with the club against Atlanta, playing 71 minutes in a 1-1 draw in 2017. His best performance against the Five Stripes came in his next appearance, scoring twice and adding an assist in the same 3-3 draw that Martinez netted a hat trick. In the two matches since, both Atlanta victories, Dwyer has been held scoreless.
Leading up to Friday's tilt, Dwyer has scored in each of his last three matches.
LA Galaxy vs LAFC, Fri. 10:30 pm ET (ESPN - full TV & streaming info)
The Galaxy's new No. 9 scored the game-tying and game-winning goals in his side's incredible 4-3 come-from-behind victory in March, then followed that up by helping to lead another late comeback in a 2-2 draw in June. What does he have in the tank for Act III?
Ibrahimovic is a loveable figure for the neutrals, but one can easily imagine how quickly LAFC fans must grow tired of his quotes. When he says things like: "It's not easy, because I can imagine LAFC winning 3-0, losing 4-3–it's not easy. But if they would have Zlatan, it would be opposite," as well as "The fans were demanding something, and I gave them Zlatan," it's understandable why LAFC fans haven't come down with Zlatan-fever.
Ibrahimovic gave his fans what they wanted, now LAFC will be keen to give Zlatan what their fans want: a loss.
Real Salt Lake at Colorado Rapids, Sat. 9 pm ET (TV & streaming info)
Beckerman has been on both sides of the Rocky Mountain Cup, adored and hated by each set of fans.
KB5 spent five-and-a-half seasons with Colorado, including winning the first two Rocky Mountain Cups with Colorado. But in 2007, mere months before he'd be traded to Real Salt Lake, Beckerman said: "(The Salt Lake fans) run their mouths the whole game. If they don't want us to celebrate, win the game."
Since Beckerman arrived in Utah in 2007, RSL has been doing just that against the Rapids, having taken nine of the last 11 cups.
D.C. United at New York Red Bulls, Sun. 7pm ET (FS1 - full TV & streaming info)
The longest-tenured current player in the Atlantic Cup is back just in time for another installment of the league's oldest rivalry.
Hamid, you might remember, had quite the evening in his side's 1-0 playoff win against the Red Bulls in 2012. He was sent off for a challenge on New York striker Kenny Cooper and immediately took to Twitter from the locker room to remonstrate in a soon-deleted tweet. Because the internet is forever, his initial thoughts live on, including this shot he took at current NBC Sports analyst Kyle Martino:
"Great leap.. GREAT LEAP.. He jumped right over me.. Hey Kyle martini please please please see your optometrist tmrw.."
Cooper didn't score from the spot as he was made to retake his kick and D.C. United grabbed a late winner, knocking the Red Bulls out of the playoffs. After the game, Hamid's scorched-earth policy continued.
"I had no idea Kenny Cooper wanted to go out for the Olympic trials," Hamid said. "I think in diving."
Seattle Sounders at Portland Timbers, Sun. 9:30pm ET (FS1 - full TV & streaming info)
It's got to be Dempsey.
He's always leaned into the role of the villain and he's just so good at it. The attacker has the inscrutable knack for producing in the biggest moments, including against Seattle's chief rivals. In 2014, Dempsey netted a hat-trick in a 4-4 draw with the Timbers in Portland and grinned at all the vitriol the home crowd could shout his way.
Then, after the Sounders won MLS Cup in 2016, Dempsey took time out of the parade to send some more animosity towards Portland: "All I got to say is, now that we won one, Portland can't say s---!"
An honorable mention in this rivalry would be the Portland fans, who have produced some of the best tifo in MLS history for their rivals.