If one was to believe the Caps twittersphere, you’d think that every time the league decided to have “Heineken Rivalry Week” that every team would have to play their a rival. A little naive perhaps, but fair enough. I see a number of problems within this.
First all, Rivalry Week is nothing more than a manufactured piece of business by MLS’ marketing arm, Soccer United Marketing, and Heineken. I think them calling this weekend Rivalry Week is a few steps beyond self-aggrandizing when only 4 of 11 matchups people would consider rivalries (FCD/Houston, NYCFC/RBNY, DC/Philly and SEA/PDX). I should disclose that I did just tune into NYCFC/RBNY only in the interest of background noise over my clothes dryer. I still maintain that the best rivalries are here in Cascadia. 40 years of playing each other. However, within the Cascadia rivalry, I maintain my belief that Seattle/Portland is the best in the league.
Let’s look at the Caps real rivals minus the hubris that some people feel the need to inject to everything involving their team.
TFC/Montreal: Let’s be real here. The Caps have gotten into the CCL (the ultimate prize beside the Voyageurs Cup) twice, once legitimately through their play on the field and the other as a result of a scheduling quirk. Montreal has made it to the final while the Caps and TFC have both made it to the semi-final stage. That’s not to diminish regular season results, but when push comes to shove, the major MLS trophies come with one of the US Soccer berths into the CCL, which would go to the highest ranking American team not already qualified.
To me, the real Caps rivals are Seattle and Portland. With only 500 kms between the 3 cities and 40 years of history behind it, a fan funded and created trophy, which saw all 3 supporter fanbases join forces and keep the Cascadia Cup out of MLS control. I could go on (again) about the friendships I’ve built with people in Portland, but I will say this: once that opening whistle blows and the following 90 (or so) game minutes, I hate them as much as I hate Sounders supporters. I think this is also a part that makes the Vancouver/Portland rivalry different from everything else.
As for what actually makes the rivalry what it is, definitely happens on the pitch. Everything from wonder goals (Hassli vs Seattle) to dubious penalty calls (Jay DeMerit), last minute tifo alterations (Nov 1, 2015) and unnecessary cards (Ozzie Alonso, Oct 2013) and the last 2 MLS Cup Champions, this 3 sided rivalry has been, and will continue to be hot.
Back to the current Rivalry Week, please don’t try and make Vancouver/Minnesota into something more than it actually is. The first regular season matchup between the two teams ever. However, there is some crossover between the two teams, which is sketchy at best when trying to start a rivalry. Former Caps goalkeeping coach Marius Røvde is now with Minnesota United. Residency grad Marco Carducci was on trial with Minnesota after mutually parting ways with the Caps, but wasn’t offered a contract.