A question as old as time: What is a rivalry in MLS? There’s the Portland Timbers vs. Seattle Sounders, New York Red Bulls vs. NYCFC, LA Galaxy vs. San Jose Earthquakes, even terrible teams like Real Salt Lake vs. the Colorado Rapids are rivals. Then again, MLS does seem determined to create rivalries like... the Chicago Fire vs. Columbus Crew or Houston Dynamo against, well someone with matches between teams who certainly play each other but beyond that have little in the way of rivalry inspiring memories.
What about Atlanta United against Orlando City, are they rivals? In order to settle the question once and for all, our resident jerk who doesn’t let things go and gets carried away with just about everything** and good natured funny guy*** had a LOGICAL and REASONABLE debate about it bantz style (we’re trying to avoid going to HR, but this is soccer and Parker usually runs through every stop sign he sees).
Arguing No**, it is not a rivalry is Parker “LOGICAL AND REASONABLE” Cleveland: Oi, wot u lookin’ at M8? Youse wanna get glassed? I was in the middle o’ singin’ ‘I’m forever blowing bubbles.’ After all me wars with Millwall, if there’s one thing I’ve learned after losing many mates, a few toes, and an eyeball it’s wot a football rivalry is and this innit one, innit?
Arguing Yes***, it is a rivalry is J. Sam “Frightened by whatever Parker just did” Jones: As perturbed as I am by my dear friend Parker’s speech patterns, I feel justified in my reasoning and confident that my rhetoric will prove outstanding in this cordial discussion over the nature, intensity and intricacies of the ongoing dispute between fans of both Atlanta United Football Club and Orlando City Soccer Club, and whether this dispute indeed measures up to the — albeit arbitrary — determining factors we have implemented in the noble search for truth and veracity and verity and candor. I would like to begin my opening argument by stating that I will examine this issue in three distinct parts and ohmygod I hate their faces. I hate their stupid, stupid faces. I hate their stupid state, I hate their stupid jean shorts, I hate their stupid toll roads and I implore the entire stupid state of Florida to immediately sink into the ocean, no wait, don’t, the earth couldn’t take that kind of pollution that would result from 20.98 million people covered in Axe body spray simultaneously entering the water at one time.
What is a rivalry?
As in any good debate with logic and reason at its core, it is useful to define the term about which the debate will forthwith be contested hence herewith.
Parker ‘Bison Riot Squad’ Cleveland - Youse know one when you see one, innit? Take me club, Blackpool. Have I watched a game that I’ve paid to see in all my time as a supporter? Do I know the results of the matches or who our best players are? Of course not, I don’t even know what league they’re in. When you are in the terraces with 17 pints of bitter in ya, there’s no remembering anything - how else can you support your club? But take the West Lanchester Derby against those motherless swine Preston North End - that’s a real rivalry. Sure we haven’t faced each other since 2013 because of promotion and relegation, but our matches make MMA matches look like church, innit? Atlanta has never lost to Orlando, the other team has to win for it to be a rivalry.
J. Sam “Checking to see if Parker is still from State College, Pennsylvania” Jones: People keep acting like there is a 400 page checklist you have to go through to meet whatever their idea of an “official” rivalry is. In reality it’s much more simplistic. I have rivalries with people I think are trying to eat faster than me in a restaurant. They may act like they have “seriously, no idea what you’re talking about” or that they “have a meeting to get to so I’m trying to hurry” when I confront them about it but don’t even try and pull that crap Beth I know what you’re about.
In sports it might be a little different but most of the criteria are similar:
- Do you want to beat that/team person?
- Would it ruin your day if you didn’t?
- Will they have a means to talk trash if they do beat you either in person or perhaps through a large collection of purple profile pic’d embarrassments to humanity on social media?
- Are they ‘Green Street Hooligans’ cosplayers from the worst state in the country who rely on a team that’s never made a playoff where half the teams in the league make the playoffs to bring them joy and when that team inevitably fails to do so, will they lash out and go buy more bandanas from Hot Topic or yell at the LARPing crew or call you a **** on Twitter or all three?
If the answer is 3⁄4 of these it’s a rivalry.
Parker ‘Nottingham Forest Till I Die Face Tattoo’ Cleveland - The thing you ‘ave to understand about a rivalry is there’s got to be history. Take me club Nottingham Forest, us Trent End Boot Boys are always looking to mix it up with Notts County firms. They think they’re so great because their club invented being a football club, but the last time they met us they lost 18 guys sent to the Emergency Room to 8. We ‘aven’t been in the same league as them since 1995 because of promotion and relegation, the only way to make an authentic football culture other than saying football, but we ‘ave history. Who could forget the 1878-79 season when Forest beat County 3-1 to get to the semi-final of the FA Cup or the time my uncle stabbed someone he thought was a Notts County supporter, but it turned out to be the Tardis? See, Atlanta and Orlando weren’t even cities back then and they want to call this a rivalry? This is nothing but clickbait, innit?
J. Sam “Ummmm...Parker?” Jones
I’m not sure why people don’t believe in hate a first sight. In their mind because Atlanta and Orlando haven’t played each other twice a year since 1892 and haven’t had anyone die in a blood feud the idea that anyone could dislike them is invalidated. If you didn’t look at Orlando’s fans the first time and weep for the planet for at least a moment, I dunno, maybe you were destined to join them all along? Orlando fans love saying the word history and having poor judgment too and oh man you really might want to check if you’re wearing the right colors.
Is Orlando worthy of being a rival?
Parker ‘Proper Chelsea’ Cleveland - What’s so bad about Florida anyway? Nice beaches, good people, it’s where Apollo 13 was set ... it seems like me favorite holiday spot Greece but without the government that falls every six months and is then bilked into staying in the Eurozone for reasons that defy economic self-interest. You need a real rival, one that’s close by like the club I hate the most - Arsenal. As an American, I’m not English and don’t know too many British people. I don’t have any idea what it’s like for my pa to have taken me to my first soccer match or watch my granddad throw a beer glass at a Gooner, but I know that in order to actually have a real, authentic rivalry it has to be in the same neighborhood of London and be between two clubs owned by foreign billionaires. So no, it innit a rivalry innit? Unless Orlando moves to West Midtown and why would they ever leave somewhere as pleasant as Florida, innit?
J. Sam “Out of ways to make the nickname bit engaging” Jones
The total score over three games is 5-4 Atlanta. They came into two of our buildings last year and came away with a point. They’ve won six straight games after investing a ton of money in the offseason to counteract having Duke Frat Boi Milton Waddams as their coach. They have a fanbase that, even with most of their time consumed by following Kid Rock on tour, really cares about their team. They are in majority insanely unlikable people from a state that exists solely for insanely unlikeable people and happens to be right next to ours. There are soccer reasons to dislike them, there are innate human reasons to dislike them but most of all, it’s just more fun to dislike them.
If all the talk on social media, and the billboards, and the empty threats made by 130-pound UCF engineering students wearing skeleton bandanas and cargo shorts didn’t exist then Sunday would just be another game. It would be the same as traveling to New England or Philadelphia and caring solely on a base level about the result. You would want to win but the intensity would be ratcheted down by an exponential level. You could feel that way about Sunday too. Or you could buy in to the childish arguing, buy in to the hate, live and die with every moment on Sunday because you don’t want to find out what the consequences are for losing to a rival and have some fun with the entertainment product you watch, read and care about for similarly intangible reasons. Or just keep spending time yelling at anyone who makes an Orlando joke that it’s not a rivalry. That sounds great too and you sound like you’re great at parties. Keep it up.
So in the end is it a rivalry? Or is it just a made up thing some blog came up with to get clicks no matter what the fanbase wants because Ezra Klein made us? Maybe the players and manager don’t think it’s a rivalry like the ones in Argentina or elsewhere in the world, what’s more, let’s hope it never gets to that point. It would be miserable to have to really worry about fan safety and widespread violence at a recreational activity. Outside of some kind of imported criteria of what an ‘authentic’ and ‘true’ and ‘real’ proper futbol derby is the games between Orlando City Soccer Club and Atlanta United Football Club seem to tick the boxes and from our exalted places Online and in the stands it seems like - at least - Sam is right.
J. Sam’s Conclusion
Orlando is trash. Orlando City Soccer Club is trash. Five Stripes by 17,000.