Union & D.C. United Rivalry Heats Up

WASHINGTON -- So this is what a rivalry is all about.

There was nothing staged. One could tell that the Union and D.C. United are becoming unfriendly neighbors on the I-95 corridor.

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The Union's Amobi Okogu defends against D.C. United's Chris Pontius (Marc Narducci/Staff)

There was pushing, shoving, complaining about the officiating in Sunday’s 1-1 draw at RFK Stadium.

Wait, what makes this different from any other Major League Soccer game?

It was the intensity in the anger that was displayed.

United got two red cards late in the game for hard fouls.

Union defender Sheanon Williams earned his second yellow, and thus a red for a trip in second half stoppage time on Chris Pontius.

Needless to say, the thermostat has been turned up higher an already simmering rivalry.

“It’s D.C. vs. Philly,” Williams said. “They don’t like us and we don’t’ like them and that will always be there.”

Williams said the same thing earlier about the Union against the New York Red Bulls. Something about the proximity that gets teams boiling.

“I think it heats up,” said United coach Ben Olsen. “That is good. I like this stuff.”

He certainly didn’t like seeing two of his team’s goals nullified.

Olsen blasted referee Mark Geiger.

“It was his show tonight and not about the players,” Olsen said.

Don’t be surprised if Olsen receives a call from league headquarters on his postgame comments.

In a way, the Union was fortunate to get out with a tie, especially with how soundly United outplayed them in the second half.

The Union remain in the fringe of playoff contention, 13 points behind United, currently in the fifth and final Eastern Conference spot. The Union does own a game in hand.

Either way, the Union has a long way to climb back to playoff contention, but they will play 10 of their final 12 games against fellow Eastern Conference contenders.

One of those games is Sept. 20 at PPL Park against D.C. United.

The game could be meaningful in the playoff race. And even if it isn’t, one gets the feeling that the intensity level won’t wane.

It’s DC and Philadelphia and the bruised feelings between these two aren’t likely to be healed in a month’s time.