Over the past couple of weeks, ahead of Major League Soccer's Heineken Rivalry Week, there has been plenty of push back from fans of both D.C. United and the Philadelphia Union, as the league seems hell-bent on creating a rivalry between the two teams.
Looking for a name for a matchup without one, the teams went as far to put out polls on Twitter for fans to vote on a name for the rivalry, with the choices being the Capital Cup, the Colonial Cup, the I-95 Cup, and the Freedom Cup. None of which was met with enthusiasm from the fans, who don't see each other as rivals.
That notion doesn't just stop at the fans though. There's rarely been bad blood between players on the two teams since the Union came into the league in 2010. And no less than 13 different players have appeared in United's black and red and Philadelphia's navy blue and gold.
"It's up to the fans, and how the perceive other teams. I don't get caught up in that stuff too much, United manager Ben Olsen said on Wednesday. "But they are pretty close to us. Someone called it a friendly rivalry, and I think that was a good description of it."
"I think the DC-New York Red Bulls game is the ultimate Major League Soccer rivalry. Clearly, they are trying to push away from it and make a New York derby," United keeper Bill Hamid told MLSsoccer.com earlier this week, when asked if there was a rivalry with the Union. "But there have always been physical matches against Philadelphia. We don't really like each other, but we always bring it when we play against each other."
To hear Olsen put it in perspective, he's more complementary of the Union, and especially of their current set up. The Union's front office and technical staff include several friends, teammates and opponents that Olsen has grown to know in his 18 years in and around MLS.
"Chris [Albright] is one of my closest friends. Jimmy [Curtin] is a guy who I speak to occasionally throughout the season. I'm happy that they kept him around, and I think Earnie [Stewart] has brought a different perspective to the club, said Olsen. "I think it seems very healthy, and the organization has given them a great infrastructure, with a new facility, a great stadium, and commitment to the academy. I think its a good organization, and I think they have the right people in charge. You are seeing some of the fruits of that labor."
One of the more intriguing aspects between the Union and United is the amount of players that have already played for both clubs, with 2016 being only the 7th season that the Union have been in existence. During that time, 13 players have suited up for both clubs, in addition to Stewart now being the Sporting Director in Chester.
The names include Albright, Freddy Adu, Brian Carroll, Danny Cruz, Michael Farfan, Fred, Andrew Jacobson, Justin Mapp, Lionard Pajoy, Jeff Parke, Carlos Ruiz, and Ethan White, several of which made direct moves from one club to the other.
And the most recent name of them all is Chris Pontius, who moved up north after 7 seasons playing in the black and red. And after struggling in recent years with injuries after his breakout 2012 campaign with United, Olsen is pleased to see his former teammate and player starting to exceed again.
"Seeing Chris having a good year is a good thing. In some way, I enjoy watching him have success," said Olsen.
In 10 games with the Union this year, Pontius has already chipped in with four goals and two assists, as the Union have surprised many in starting the season off well. Those totals from Pontius are nearly equal to the six goals and four assists that Pontius amassed from 2013 to 2015, when injuries riddled his playing time for United.
Pontius asked to be moved in the offseason, and United were willing to give him a fresh start.
"No one ever wants to move on from a guy like Chris. But I think he felt mentally, it was time to move on," said Olsen. "I think he is in a good system. I think the way they play suits him perfectly. He can stay a little higher, and stay in and around the goal more. He's always been good at sniffing out where opportunities are, and he's got a well rounded way of hurting you."
"I think he's in a good situation, but hopefully we can halt some of his momentum."