We love rivalry in sports. The familiar hatred with your local rivals and conference opponents is the lifeblood of every sport in the world. In the NFL, for example, teams play their divisional rival twice per season, building that hatred that can only come with familiarity.
In Major League Soccer over the last two years, that familiarity has become stale. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, we've seen a drastic reduction of inter-conference matchups and an abundance of local derbies. Obviously this wasn't a choice the league wanted to make, but the cross-country duels effectively took a two-year hiatus.
In 2022, those inter-conference clashes are back on the menu.
This weekend, Orlando City will play the Los Angeles Galaxy, the Lions first match on the west coast since May 15th, 2019. The only west coast teams Orlando faced anywhere in that time were the San Jose Earthquakes last season and LAFC during the MLS is Back tournament.
The novelty of playing on the west coast, especially after a nearly three year gap, makes the next two weekends for Orlando City all the more exciting.
If you only follow Orlando City and don't pay attention to the rest of Major League Soccer, these games provide a rare glimpse into the rest of the league. Even if you, like myself, follow the league religiously, games like these provide unique matchups you rarely see. For example, this Saturday, Orlando City will likely face off against Javier "Chicharito" Hernandez. That's cool!
There's only so many cross country road trips a team can go on and only so many inter-conference games you can play each season, but that scarcity only makes it better. The lifeblood of the regular season are those bread and butter conference games, and that's great! But it's all the more special when interspersed with the minutiae of the normal schedule, your team gets to play across the country in a unique environment like Dignity Health Sports Park in Carson, California, or Providence Park in Portland, Oregon.
Matchups like the next two weeks are rare and special occasions for us Orlando City fans, and we should cherish these unique opportunities.