Any time the Red Bulls and the Philadelphia Union play, someone is going to drag the rivalry trope out.
Here's one story where Head Coach Mike Petke talks about it. Here's another, featuring Thierry Henry. Here's ours from the last time the Union made a trip to Red Bull Arena.
These kind of things don't come up when D.C. United comes to town. There's a documented history there dating back almost two decades. But be it because of proximity or sports culture or inferiority complex or what-have-you, every so often the MLS world has to justify New York and Philadelphia as a rivalry.
That's because there's still been no "shots fired" moment. No flashpoint that's turned natural mutual disdain into full blown hatred. And it feels that way. Hating the Eagles, the Phillies or the Flyers doesn't make a soccer rivalry, conversely for the Giants, Mets, Rangers, Islanders or Devils.
But it doesn't have to be that way. The Red Bulls and Union keep meeting under interesting circumstances. In 2010, the Red Bulls knocked the Union out of their first ever Open Cup. In 2011, the Red Bulls beat the Union to secure a playoff spot. Last year, the Red Bulls ended the Union's tumultuous 2012 campaign with a 3-0 drubbing in PPL Park. Earlier this year, it was Sebastien Le Toux making his first appearance against the Red Bulls since leaving the team, signing with the Union and slighting his former team.
But still, no propulsion. Nothing to make it something real.
Maybe that can change this weekend. The Red Bulls enter the game second in the league. Hot on their tails? The Union, just one point behind. The winner -- and chances are, there will be one -- could go to the top of the East and near the top of the league. The Union have been middling, but so have the Red Bulls.
In a season where no one seems to want to win the Supporters' Shield, both teams could make a late season push. And they could look back on Saturday's game as the catalyst for that run.
Just as easily, none of that could happen. But if we're going to force a rivalry narrative, let's at least try and make it work.