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Know Thy Enemy: Revolution at Union Liberty Derbibity Rivalry Week Edition

Okay so there is no Golden LiMu Emu trophy on the line today...but maybe there should be?

MLS: Philadelphia Union at New England Revolution Winslow Townson-USA TODAY Sports

Normally ahead of a New England Revolution game, I actually offer some kind of legitimate preview prior to some question and answer insight with one of the many soccer writers on SB Nation and elsewhere who are kind enough to spare me some of their time.

This week as the Revs head down I95 to face the Philadelphia Union later tonight at 730pm, there will be so such preview. I’m on vacation and semi-mailing this in, everyone knows the Union, we play them every week, how else are they going to win another Shield otherwise. Didn’t even get a proper thank you in 2020 for their first one either.

Anyway, it’s MLS Rivalry Week and despite playing against NYC and Philly in the last couple of weeks, two I95 Cup rivals and yes it’s totally a real thing, the Revs have not been in any of the featured games. Normally we would drag up that old argument of who is the true Revolution #1 rival but that would require effort and I’m in the middle of packing.

So instead you’re going to get silliness, the best kind of silliness about the greatest non rivalry ever to grace a t-shirt:

If anyone thinks this site is ever going to forget that shirt, you’re wrong, we love it so. Except for the fact the Revs are wearing the color of the other team we forced out of our city all those years ago while Philly let them stay for a bit before they left on their own. Never would’ve happened to Boston, some Revolutionary capital city Philly was not being able to defend their turf and counterattack against that red team back in the day.

Now I know the Union aren’t exactly new to MLS but their expansion and growth came at a time when the Revs were largely floundering in mediocrity. Philly though have been hitting their regular season stride more recently and consistently, they won a Shield, and got to their first Eastern Conf Final last year. They play their kids, all twenty of them it seems, and have a tremendous backstop in former UConn Huskies keeper Andre Blake. There’s a number of reasons why this isn’t a rivalry but perhaps this rivalry has finally found it’s true calling?

I mean, think about this logically: what could possibly be more ridiculous and on band in MLS than to have a Golden Emu trophy for the Liberty Rivalry sponsored by Liberty Mutual. It’s a perfect representation and imagery for two of America’s oldest and most Revolutionary cities. What’s more American than a trophy of Australia’s national bird and pest that rose up and defeated the Aussie’s in an actual war 90 years ago. No seriously, watch that video from Oversimplified, and every other video on that channel, they’re amazing.

Also, there is not an MVP of the Liberty Rivalry game, there is the King Kess Shithousery Award to celebrate the greatest highlight ever of all time:

Anyway, this is a layup which is why it will never happen but it is entire possible that the Revs and Union will have a lot more significant matches in the future which I am looking forward too and hopefully that means a few games in Subaru Park in person.

If the Revs and Union continue on their current paths and success, there’s no reason to think they can’t have a few more epic playoff games like the one in 2020 when the Revs rode a wave of Gustavo Bou golazos all the way from the 8th seed to the Conference Finals, knocking out the top seeded Union in the quarterfinals. Throw in a few US Open Cup games into the mix and I think Philly can get their name on the top of the list of teams we’re tired of playing in the 2020’s.

The Union are in first place on points in the Eastern Conference and the Revs need to start another long unbeaten streak. Giacomo Vrioni is stateside and preparing for his first practice next week so depending on how quickly he acclimates into the sqaud and how game fit he is it’s entirely possible he’s getting minutes by the end of the month.

Anyway, Joe Lister is here again from Brotherly Game as he is every week but you already knew that though Joe is under the impression this is the last meeting of the year between the Revs and Union but I haven’t checked the August schedule yet, I’m sure there’s two games there at least. We get Joe’s thoughts on the Union being absolutely stoked to have Julian Carranza on their squad full time, Kai Wagner being good at soccer, and the Union creating the job opening that brought back Wayne Rooney.

As always, check out my answers to Joe’s questions over on their site.

1) Well good job, you put a touchdown up on DC United and now Wayne Rooney is back and it’s all Philly’s fault. But seriously, how much fun to watch was that game and I think we’re all glad Rooney is back right?

Friday’s match was incredible. It’s wild to watch a team that has struggled to score all year just decide to put seven goals past a team, and it could/should have been at least eight or nine. Granted, D.C. United is not the strongest team in MLS (they’re the worst), but it still says something.

I’m not the biggest Wayne Rooney guy, but I do hope that he can push them forward in the latter half of the season. I would like to see D.C. make a bit of a push going into the next few weeks to spice up the Eastern Conference.

2) Julian Carranza had his purchase option picked up from Miami this week and then you beat Miami 2-1 on the road. How good of a value is that deal for Philly especially with what he’s done on the field this year?

As soon as Carranza stepped on the field in March, everyone wanted to know how the Union could purchase him. Carranza has been huge for the Union this year both in terms of goalscoring and defensive work in the final third. He’s clicked well with Daniel Gazdag and Mikael Uhre, and the three of them have created a really solid attack in Chester. He isn’t as speedy as Uhre or vertically blessed like Cory Burke, but he’s comfortable with the ball in dangerous positions, and his work in the box is a big part of why the Union is in first.

Interestingly enough, Carranza had a clause that triggered a purchase option if he reached 15 G/A. Given that he was already at 11 going into Wednesday night, it was likely that Carranza was going to stay no matter what.

A final note is that Carranza is really happy to play in Philly. He’s spoken often about how much he really disliked the Miami locker room due to the amount of ego in one room, and how different Philly has been.

3) There’s no question, just talk about Kai F Wagner being third in the league in assists behind Carles Gil and Luciano Acosta.

Kai has just been incredible, year in and year out for the Union. I don’t think the Union have him for much longer (and for his sake, I somewhat hope that he moves on), but he’s still great to watch. He has incredible defensive techniques, but what really stands out is how he works the ball into the box.

The Union doesn’t play with a ton of width on the left-hand side of the formation, Wagner is really the one pushing the ball forward while Leon Flach drifts more into the center of the pitch. He’s able to consistently move the ball just outside the penalty area, and then just work crosses in again and again. The same applies to free kicks and corners. He has such accuracy and every cross goes to just the right spot. It’s no surprise that he’s become such a key part of the Union’s offense while holding down the defensive left wing at the same time.


The lineup may be difficult to predict this week, given that Jim did rotate the lineup a little bit more than usual against Miami on Wednesday. Here’s my best guess.

Blake; Wagner, Glesnes, Elliott, Harriel; Martinez; Flach, Bedoya; Gazdag; Carranza, Burke

No injuries for the Union, interestingly enough.

I think that Philadelphia takes this one 2-0. I understand that New England is heating up, but so is Philly. I think that they have the upper hand with goals from Carranza and Gazdag.