Texas Derby Swiss Flair to Pit Best Friends Reto Ziegler, Philippe Senderos Against Each Other

This story was originally published ahead of Leg One of the 2018, but Philippe Senderos missed the match with an injury. Leg Two would be the first time Ziegler and Senderos meet in an MLS match. 

FRISCO - As bitter rivals between Dallas and Houston kick off the 2018 Texas Derby on Thursday night, a true friendship will be put on hold for 90 minutes.

The Derby this year will have a palpable Swiss flair to it. Houston’s Philippe Senderos is in his second year in MLS and has anchored the Dynamo back line while adding four tallies of his own. Dallas’ Reto Ziegler continues his dominant early play for his new club in a similar center back role, with three goals now to his name as well.

Switzerland, though, is only the beginning of their relationship.

“He’s one of my real, real friends in football,” Ziegler said prior to Leg One. “We’re all good friends, but he’s a good friend outside of football, so I have a special relationship with him.”

“He’s my best friend,” Senderos added. “I’ve known him since I was very young. We’ve played together since I was maybe nine years old. We won the U-17 European Championship together. We were roommates for all of our international career. We made our debut for the National Team together.”

The duo have undoubtedly had this rivalry weekend on the calendar for quite some time. But without Senderos, it’s possible that their meeting wouldn’t even have been a possibility.

When FCD approached Ziegler this offseason, the decision to come to the U.S. and play in MLS was one eased by the convincing of his best friend - and now rival.

“I asked him many questions before I came here,” the Dallas defender admitted. “We know MLS in Europe, but it’s always better to ask the players who are here, so he helped me a lot. He gave me some advice and he’s the reason why I am in MLS.”

“I said it’s a very exciting time to be part of MLS,” Senderos said of their conversation. “I was pretty sure he was going to be a success because he’s a very talented player and a professional and he’s definitely done that. He’s been very consistent this year.”

Thursday might be the first MLS meeting, but it won’t be the first the lifelong friends are on opposite sides of a Derby.

In 2005, Ziegler was playing at Tottenham and Senderos at Arsenal. The storied North London Derby was their first affair on opposite sides of a bitter battle. Just once during their time at either club did the duo see the field at the same time - April 25, 2005. Ziegler subbed into the match in the 79th minute, while Senderos’ Arsenal took a 1-0 result.

“it’s going to be another special game…On the pitch we just forget about our relationship and focus on our teams,” Senderos said. “All I want is the Dynamo to do well and to win and he’s going to do the same.”

“Before I signed, we already spoke about the Derby. He told me the story about the cannon [El Capitán].” Ziegler said. “I I told him we’re going to win that.”