Armchair Analyst: Heineken Rivalry Week edition of the mailbag!

It's Heineken Rivalry Week! Pop a cold one and enjoy.

Here are some of the best questions I fielded on twitter...

It is! There's been games to watch all week on like 10 different platforms – the league's YouTube & Facebook accounts, ESPN2, FS1, TUDN, TSN, TVAS... it's a lot. We all miss live games, but it's sometimes nice to go back into the archives and let the past wash over you.

Nice to see Crew fans coming in early with the cheap shots. I'll say for sure -44 is a breakable record in terms of negative goal differential, but also that it won't happen within the next five years. Cincinnati's old front office wrote the book on how not to build an expansion team – though I'll always contend the way they went about filling slots 1-through-15 on the roster was waaaaay more troubling than what they did for slots 16-30, which got way more press.

But anyway, it did lead to an historically bad season defensively in terms of boxscore numbers. But I'll bet you Eliot knows very well these two facts:

  1. In terms of this nascent rivalry's most memorable moment, Cincy's still got the upper hand thanks to the 2017 U.S. Open Cup
  2. Vancouver's xG differential was actually worse than Cincy's last year

So yes, historically bad in the boxscore, and not likely to be broken any time soon. But not super unlikely either, I don't think. Especially with all the firepower MLS teams are buying/building in attack.

Crappy, passive-aggressive questions get you into the mailbag! Especially when fans provide me with an immediate rejoinder:

It'll be up to the teams and the fanbases to make this a real rivalry. What I suspect will happen is what we've seen with the Cascadia Cup over the decade: two of the teams will become blood-and-thunder-level rivals, while the other will become kiiiiind of a third wheel. Timbers and Sounders fans don't hate 'Caps fans the way they hate each other, and I don't know if there's anything in particular that can/will change that.

It'll probably be the same in Texas. I'm not putting any money on who that will be.

It's not. It's more like a feud, one that's progressively cooled as certain players have left and retired (Javier Morales and Benny Feilhaber being two obvious ones), and as RSL has faded from the top of the West over the past decade.

Does anyone regard Chicago vs. New England as a rivalry? Not really, even though those two teams met in the playoffs eight times in 10 seasons, were constantly competing at the top of the conference, and constantly just beat the hell out of each other. The players and fans hated each other.

But there was no proximity, so once they both dropped off the "rivalry" that defined the Eastern Conference for a decade kind of ended. And if it ended, it's not a rivalry.

I feel like that's the direction Sporting vs. RSL is headed. 2013 is a long, long time ago.

Houston vs. Sporting a decade ago. Again, very clearly a feud and not a rivalry, but my god... every time those two teams played it was ax handles and machetes at 10 paces. No soccer about it at all.

So yeah, this is where we get to it: You need proximity and at least a few high stakes games to kick off a real rivalry. The Atlantic Cup* got that right off the bat in the 1996 playoffs, while the California Clasico really, really kicked off in the 2001 MLS Cup. Hell is Real has proximity, but it also got started with an elimination match. The Rocky Mountain Cup, after the Kyle Beckerman trade in mid-2008, went insane for about four years, with each team winning an MLS Cup in that span.

(*)Wasn't its name then, and arguably still isn't.

The Loons haven't played many of those types of games, and they don't really have a next-door neighbor. Chicago's closest, but they're more than six hours away and in a different conference. It's tough.

What could work is if, when St. Louis comes in, they end up in the West (giving Sporting a natural rival) and Minnesota get moved to the East. I know Vikings and Bears fans loathe each other – though, then again, so do Cubs and Cardinals fans.

The Dairon Asprilla Game.

I don't think this one counts as a rivalry yet, though perhaps given a few more playoff meetings like last year's...

One of my great disappointments is that Philly and D.C. haven't become more natural rivals. I kind of suspected it would happen instantly – I was raised on Big East basketball, so "Georgetown vs. 'Nova" always meant something to me – but Philly's struggles, D.C.'s decline and the fact the Sons of Ben is littered with former United fans took the edge off right at the start and has kept it blunted.

It might take another 10 years, but I do think Union vs. United will eventually get there. Which I guess makes this my answer to Wabash's tweet up above, in that this is the "rivalry" outside the top 10 that has the highest ceiling. Would anybody be all that surprised if Philly-D.C. turned into a legit turf war overnight at some point?

Not I.

An Atlanta fan checks in with some well-earned shade for Orlando City.

Comprehending that a player literally broke his leg in order to score the game-winning goal in the Canadian Championship a few years ago.

This is why all the whining about rivals meeting too often in the U.S. Open Cup gets to me. Montreal and Toronto meet pretty much every year in the Canadian Championship, and every single meeting produces at least 180 minutes of incredibly intense, no-holds-barred, playoff-style soccer. It is fantastic and I look forward to it every summer.

We'll end on this one.

The first name that popped into my head was Alan Gordon, who produced so many incredible California Clasico moments on both sides. And then I thought about how Marco Etcheverry just freaking mutilated my beloved Metro back in the day, and he deserves a shout. Taylor Twellman always turned up in those playoff series for the Revs against the Fire, but again: that was more of a feud than a rivalry. Sebastian Giovinco had some mind-bending moments against the Impact. Bradley Wright-Phillips not only dominated the Hudson River Derby for its first four years, but he sent one of the greatest tweets in MLS history:

He also backed that up by scoring in the next meeting between these two teams, and his 12 goals in the series is more than any other two players combined.

Any/all of the above is a worthwhile shout, but we've never seen anything like the Zlatan-vs.-Vela battle that defined El Trafico, which is currently the best rivalry in the league. Stakes, star-power, proximity, and some of the most incredible soccer MLS has ever seen:

Zlatan and Vela each scored nine goals over the first two years of the rivalry. The Galaxy lead the all-time series with two wins, three draws and just one loss. But that one loss came in the playoffs, and it was Zlatan's final MLS game.

So... advantage Vela.


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