Armchair Analyst: Defining moments for the biggest rivalries in MLS history

It's Heineken Rivalry Week! That means we'll be replaying some of the best games from the best rivalries in MLS history. Here's your guide on what to watch for, and a little bit about the history of each:

Hell is Real

Columbus Crew vs. FC Cincinnati is literally the newest rivalry in MLS, as Cincy only came into the league in 2019. But the rivalry was actually born before then, back in the 2017 U.S. Open Cup when FC Cincinnati, then still in the USL, made a miracle run to the semifinals. Their first MLS victim on their run? Columbus, of course – and yes, it was real.

Iconic Moment

That USOC upset is still probably the defining moment, though last year's first-ever MLS encounter was also pretty great. There's plenty more in this documentary if you want to get a feel for it:

What to watch for:

FULL MATCH REPLAY: FC Cincinnati vs. Columbus Crew, 8/25/19; Monday, 4 pm ET on Youtube, Facebook & MLSsoccer.com

A full replay of the second regular-season match from 2019, in which Luis Diaz and Gyasi Zardes absolutely terrorized Cincy in Cincinnati.

Rocky Mountain Cup

This rivalry kicked off in 2005 when Real Salt Lake entered the league as the first new club in the Expansion Era (basically, 2005-present). It was pretty damn one-sided at the start with Colorado dominating the first two years, but things started to shift in late 2007... right after the Rapids traded Kyle Beckerman to RSL.

This became the best rivalry in the league in 2008 and stayed there through about 2011 as the two teams – each of whom would win an MLS Cup during that span – took turns beating the hell out of each other.

Iconic Moment

Too many to choose from, but since it's from the game we're showing, let's go with Yura Movsisyan's 90th-minute equalizer way back in October of 2008, which clinched RSL's first-ever trip to the playoffs:

What to watch for: 

MLS REMIX: Colorado Rapids vs Real Salt Lake, 10/25/08; Tuesday, 4 pm ET on YoutubeFacebook & MLSsoccer.com

On MLS Remix, our own Stephen Keel – a former Rapid – hosts as Nat Borchers (a former Rapid who turned into an RSL legend) and Ian Joy (an RSL man in 2008 & 2009) watch RSL earn their first-ever trip to the postseason. 

El Trafico

Everyone wondered, when LAFC came into MLS in 2018, if this would become a real rivalry. The Galaxy and Chivas USA had a local rivalry, but not one that really extended or resonated beyond the borders of Southern California. From the outside looking in, it always felt like the Quakes were the Galaxy's biggest rival and Chivas were the third wheel.

It took just 90 minutes to change that. No rivalry in league history has, over a two-year span, consistently delivered game-after-game madness the way that El Trafico has.

Iconic Moment

I still can't believe this happened:

This is one of the biggest, best, most important goals in MLS history. The fact that it happened as the Galaxy were in the process of turning a 3-0 deficit into a 4-3 win in the first-ever meeting of these two teams ... I still can't believe that happened.

What to watch for:

FULL MATCH REPLAY: LAFC vs. LA Galaxy, 10/24/2019; Tuesday, 9 pm ET & 12 midnight on ESPN Deportes

LAFC were the best team in the league in 2019, and one of the best in 2018. The Galaxy barely made the playoffs in 2019, and barely missed in 2018. And yet LAFC had never beaten the Galaxy... until last year's playoffs.

FULL MATCH REPLAY: LA Galaxy vs. LAFC, 7/20/2019: Saturday, 12 noon on ESPN Deportes

More Zlatan. More Vela. More heartbreak for LAFC.

It was around this point that folks started feeling like LAFC would never, ever beat the Galaxy.

FULL MATCH REPLAY: LA Galaxy vs. LAFC, 8/24/2018: Saturday, 2 pm on Pluto TV

More Zlatan. More Vela. Another point against LAFC for a Galaxy team that wasn't doing much against literally anybody else.

FULL MATCH REPLAY: LAFC vs. LA Galaxy, 8/25/2019; Saturday, 6 pm on FS1

This time it was reversed. This time, it was the Galaxy who went up by multiple goals, and this time it was LAFC came storming back ... right up until Vela came off with an injury.

California Clasico

One of the league's original rivalries, and one that's natural given how thick the hate is between northern and southern California across all sports. The Galaxy were one of the league's best teams right out of the gates, all while the Clash struggled. But after then came a rebrand and some kid named Landon Donovan, and things got heated. Donovan led the Quakes to an MLS Cup triumph – the club's first – in 2001, beating the Galaxy in the final.

Then the Galaxy won in 2002. Then the Quakes won in 2003. Then Donovan left the Quakes for the Galaxy, and led them to another MLS Cup win in 2005.

It's since almost all tilted the Galaxy's way on a macro scale, but every year in early summer, around the 4th of July, these two teams meet at Stanford Stadium in Palo Alto. And basically every single year, the Quakes take the Galaxy behind the woodshed. Sometimes even Q gets involved.

Iconic Moment

Alan Gordon! Alan Gordon! Alan Gordon! Gordon! Gordon! Gordon!!!!!

It takes a lot to produce a moment more iconic than literal MLS Cup-winning golden goal (Dwayne De Rosario got that for the Quakes vs. the Galaxy in '01), but that's what you're seeing above.

What to watch for:

FULL MATCH REPLAY: San Jose Earthquakes vs. LA Galaxy, 6/25/2016; Tuesday, 11 pm ET on TUDN

Steven Gerrard! Giovani dos Santos! Chris Wondolowski! Chad... Barrett? Chad Barrett? Yes, Chad Barrett.

Texas Derby

Proximity breeds hatred, so it's only natural that when Houston came to MLS (in 2006, as the relocated Quakes), they formed an instant rivalry with FC Dallas. It was the type of rivalry that would lead to players diving, going in two-footed and sometimes kicking each other.  

Iconic Moment

The guy who did the kicking in that above, linked video? He was suspended for this one. The guy who got kicked, Carlos Ruiz, was not. Dallas won the first leg of this series 1-0, and then Ruiz scored early in the second leg. They were up 2-0 on aggregate and were about to knock out the defending MLS Cup champs. There was less than a half-hour left.

And then the Dynamo reminded everyone why they were the champs. Stuart Holden pulled one back, and then Brian Ching tied it. And then in extra time, Ching scored again. And then Brad Davis – a former Dallas player – iced it.

What to watch for:

FULL MATCH REPLAY: FC Dallas vs. Houston Dynamo, 8/27/2016; Wednesday, 4 pm ET on YoutubeFacebook & MLSsoccer.com

Dallas hadn't won a major title since the 1997 U.S. Open Cup, but this was going to be their year, as they would win the Open Cup and their first-ever Supporters' Shield. This was the best Dallas team ever, reaching full flight after giving up an early goal and just crushing the Dynamo.

The Dirty South

It's hard to call this a rivalry, since Orlando City, after three years, still are yet to beat Atlanta United. The Five Stripes have had a few close calls since entering the league in 2017, but this has been as one-sided as it gets.

Iconic Moment

It's not just that Josef Martinez set the single-season goalscoring record. It's not just that Josef Martinez set the single-season goalscoring record against his team's "rival." It's not just that Josef Martinez set the single-season goalscoring record in his "rival's" house.

It's that Josef Martinez did all of the above, then chirped the goalkeeper, took off his shirt and displayed it for all of Orlando to see:

What to watch for:

FULL MATCH REPLAY: Orlando City vs. Atlanta United, 8/24/2018; Wednesday, 6 pm ET on ESPN2

This is it, man. This is that game during that Atlanta United season.

Hudson River Derby

The New York metropolitan area is 20 million people strong, so of course the Red Bulls weren't going to have it all to themselves forever. Come 2015 and NYCFC, the noisy neighbors from the Bronx who wore sky blue, created an instant "proximity breeds hatred" rivalry among both the players and the fans.

It took a year for the Pigeons to get humming, but from 2016 onwards they joined the Red Bulls at or near the top of the Eastern Conference. They also joined them in discovering new ways to inflict annual playoff misery upon their fans.

Iconic Moment

7-0.

There haven't been many times in a rivalry where one team beats the other by a touchdown. 

What to watch for:

FULL MATCH REPLAY: NYCFC vs. RBNY, 6/28/2015; Wednesday, 8 pm ET on ESPN2

The first-ever meeting between these two teams at Yankee Stadium wasn't all that one-sided, though there was little doubt about who the better team was. There was plenty of doubt, however, about Matt Miazga's swing. The man had clearly never played baseball a day in his life.

FULL MATCH REPLAY: NYCFC vs. RBNY, 8/22/2018; Friday, 12:45 pm ET on Pluto TV

Down one man, NYCFC come back to equalize. Down two men, they hold on for dear life against the eventual Supporters' Shield-champs, a RBNY team that set the then-record for single-season points. Huge performance from the hosts.

FULL MATCH REPLAY: NYCFC vs. RBNY, 8/24/2019; Friday, 11 pm ET on ESPN Deportes & Sunday, 4 pm ET on YoutubeFacebook & MLSsoccer.com

Yes, NYCFC were starting to run away from the pack in the East, and yes, RBNY were in the midst of a down year. But it felt like more of the same early in this one, didn't it?

But then Maxi Moralez actually converted a penalty – it's like seeing a unicorn! – and then Heber did something spectacular.

Cascadia Cup

The oldest rivalry in MLS is actually older than MLS. Both the Seattle Sounders and Portland Timbers embraced their NASL heritage when they came into the league, and both consciously trace their current iteration's roots back to those mid-70s originals. Back then, and into the lower leagues, and then all the way up to today, the Sounders and Timbers have hated each other.

It's been going on for nearly half a century now.

Iconic Moment

I still have no idea what to say about this game:

Actually, I have five things to say: Dairon, Dairon, Dairon, Dairon and Dairon.

What to watch for:

FULL MATCH REPLAY: Portland vs. Seattle, 6/25/2017; Wednesday, 10 pm ET on ESPN2 & Friday, 9 pm ET on ESPN Deportes

Down a man and a goal for more than a half, playing on the road... and Clint Dempsey, rises up to nod home the equalizer right in front of the Timbers Army. Oof.

MLS Remix: Best of Seattle vs. Portland; Friday, 4 pm ET on YoutubeFacebook & MLSsoccer.com

When you have almost 50 years of rivalry, you have a lot of highlights and a lot of moments to get through. David Gass and Calen Carr are joined by one Timbers fan and one Sounders fan as they look back through the years.

Canadian Classique

You can also call it the 401 Derby or the Two Solitudes Derby, but by whatever name (and I'm partial to "Canadian Classique" for what it's worth), Montreal and Toronto have been going at it for centuries. This was pretty obviously the defining rivalry of the NHL's Original Six era, and while it came late to MLS, it came with a bang. The fans have been genetically bred to strongly dislike each other.

They meet in regular-season play every year, they've met in the playoffs a bunch and they meet in the Canadian Championship just about every year. Lots of chances to breed more bad blood.

Iconic Moment

Folks forget how close the treble-winning 2017 Toronto team came to not being a treble-winning team. They ran away with the Shield and they crushed Seattle in MLS Cup, but in the Canadian Championship? That was a different story:

TFC were down a goal twice in this series. They came from behind twice. And now, for the second straight year, they won it deep into stoppage time.

And the crowd went wild.

What to watch for:

FULL MATCH REPLAY: Toronto FC vs. Montreal Impact, 10/29/2015; Thursday, 6 pm ET on TSN2

After eight miserable seasons the Reds, behind a monster year from Sebastian Giovinco, finally made the playoffs. They were welcomed rudely by Patrice Bernier, Ignacio Piatti et al.

FULL MATCH REPLAY: Toronto FC vs. Montreal Impact, 11/30/2016: Thursday, 8 pm ET on TSN2

A year and a day after that meeting, the Reds would host the Impact once again in the playoffs, this time in the second leg of the Eastern Conference championship. By the end of this one, it would become the best playoff series in MLS history. 

FULL MATCH REPLAY: Montreal Impact vs. Toronto FC, 8/24/2019; Sunday, 12 noon on Pluto TV

Another comeback, though this one wasn't quite so dramatic. But it gave a hint of what was to come from Toronto in last year's playoffs.

FULL MATCH REPLAY: Montreal Impact vs. Toronto FC, 10/21/2018; Sunday, 7 pm on TVAS

A classic performance from one of the Classique's all-time best performers. Piatti single-handedly won this one for the Impact

Atlantic Cup

This name has never really taken off, but here's what you need to know: D.C. United and the Metrostars were the original East Coast rivalry in MLS, meeting seven times across all competitions in 1996 alone. That included a famous playoff series in which the great Marco Etcheverry made the match-winning play – and no, it was not a dive.

As with all other rivalries, proximity and familiarity are the keywords. There's a long-standing dislike between the two fanbases, and that's spilled over to the players on the field.

Iconic Moment

Roy Miller. Thierry Henry. Kenny Cooper. Joe Willis. Nick DeLeon. Encroachment. A free kick. A penalty save. A 24-hour weather delay. They can't hold us back.

What the hell just happened????

What to watch for:

FULL MATCH REPLAY: D.C. United vs. RBNY, 8/21/2019; Saturday, 4 pm ET on YoutubeFacebook & MLSsoccer.com

Matching red cards, lots of grit, grind and get-after-it. Nobody's going to put this one in a museum, but it's evidence that even during a down year for both teams, the blood can still boil.

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