Los Angeles Galaxy v Sporting Kansas City

Debunking the myth of Real Salt Lake, Sporting Kansas City as bitter rivals

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You are going to hear a lot in this MLS Cup week about how Real Salt Lake and Sporting Kansas City are rivals, with acrimony and animosity just a’flyin’.  It has already started, in fact.

It’s a nice story to help put a little more spice into this MSL Cup enchilada, one that might need some added media umph, as we talked about earlier. And I’m sure that individually there is some personal acrimony.

But when these teams consider their top rivals, or when we think about the real slobber-knocker rivalries of MLS, it simply isn’t true that this one tops the list.

Perhaps it’s true just a little more valid from Sporting Kansas City’s side than from Real Salt Lake’s point of view, but only because Peter Vermes’ team lacks a natural geographical rivalry. (Yet another reason why MLS in St. Louis would be spectacular; what a great two- or three-time a year rivalry that would be!)

But when Real Salt Lake players or supporters think “Who do we really abhor?” they think about Colorado. That is an actual rivalry. After that, the LA Galaxy, perhaps? Who doesn’t remember the Jason Kreis-David Beckham confrontation? (Watch that little dust-up of disharmony here.)

Heck, Sporting KC and RSL aren’t even in the same conference. So, rivals? C’mon.

The story linked above says the “rivalry” thing started during preseason proceedings of 2011, when a match in Arizona spun out of control.

Here’s the thing: I was with those team in February of 2011 in Arizona. Everybody got sideways with Kansas City there. Kansas City is a physical team, and they weren’t turning it down for preseason contests. I’ve written before about how preseason matches frequently get too hot; players can dish out retribution or be excessively physical with no real consequences.

About the same time as the RSL-Sporting KC confrontation, a match between Houston and Kansas City had nearly turned into a full-fledged, benches clearing donnybrook, all because Roger Espinoza went crashing into a very dangerous tackle. (In a memorable pre-season contest that also saw Teal Bunbury lost for weeks due to a dislocated elbow.)

Saturday? Saturday’s contest at Sporting Park a big match. There are great stories to be found. (And we’ll follow all of them at ProSoccerTalk … so keep checking.)

I just don’t buy the “huge rivalry” angle.

Ranieri: Champs Leicester must stay calm in relegation battle

SUNDERLAND, ENGLAND - DECEMBER 03:  Claudio Ranieri manager of Leicester City reacts as David Moyes manager of Sunderland looks on during the Premier League match between Sunderland and Leicester City at Stadium of Light on December 3, 2016 in Sunderland, England.  (Photo by Stu Forster/Getty Images)
Photo by Stu Forster/Getty Images
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Leicester City in the Champions League? Pretty darn good.

Leicester City in the Premier League? Pretty darn poor.

Claudio Ranieri is scratching his head after Leicester remains winless in PL matches leading up to a Champions League week, falling 2-1 to relegation-battling Sunderland at the Stadium of Light on Saturday.

[ MATCH RECAP: Sunderland 2-1 Leicester City ]

Whereas last year the Foxes seemed to catch plenty of breaks, Ranieri saw an own goal and countless bad passes drop his team to within two points of the bottom three.

From the BBC:

“This moment is not the right moment for us. We wanted to get points here but of course it was a relegation battle, they won, well done to them. They started stronger than us in the first ten minutes. Both teams wanted to win. They scored with our own goal.

“I said two, three weeks ago, always I look behind me. We are in the battle of relegation. For this reason we must stay calm, together and continue to work hard.”

Right now, the chances of the champs going down seem possible. Week after week we’ve been waiting for the Foxes to snap out of their season-long PL funk, but Leicester keeps giving away points to traditionally bottom-half sides.

In its last four, Leicester now has losses to Sunderland, West Brom, and Watford, plus a draw with Middlesbrough. Woof!

In the UCL, Leicester are through to the knockout rounds before Wednesday’s visit to Porto. Next up in the PL: Man City, Bournemouth, Stoke City.

Follow @NicholasMendola

STREAM: Premier League Behind the Badge – Watford, Episode 2

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Premier League outfit Watford have had the “Premier League Behind the Badge” treatment in the past few months and last week we saw episode one open up the series.

[ MORE: Behind the Badge archive

This Sunday at 2 p.m. ET the second episode (see the promo video above for a taster) is coming your way on NBCSN which features the players’ recovery after their hard-fought win against Leicester City, discusses the club’s one-of-a-kind internship program, and looks back on one of the most memorable moments in the team’s history. The episode will also include a tour of the club’s training facilities, given by defender Adrian Mariappa.

[ STREAM: Behind the Badge ]

In an exclusive series, NBC Sports followed around the Hornets in a very similar fashion to HBO’s Hard Knocks which joins the preseason camp of one NFL team each summer.

Below is the schedule for the three remaining episodes on Watford, which you can watch on NBCSN and live online via NBCSports.com in the coming weeks, plus a link to watch episode one in full from last week.


First episode: Watch full episode, here
Second episode: Sunday, Dec. 4, 2 p.m. ET – NBCSN
Third episode: Sunday, Dec. 11, 2 p.m. ET – NBCSN
Fourth episode: Sunday, Dec. 18, 2 p.m. ET – NBCSN

Bradley reacts to Swans’ blowout loss: “Today is a big concern”

LONDON, ENGLAND - DECEMBER 03:  Dele Alli of Tottenham Hotspur is tackled by Jordi Amat of Swansea City during the Premier League match between Tottenham Hotspur and Swansea City at White Hart Lane on December 3, 2016 in London, England.  (Photo by Tony Marshall/Getty Images)
Photo by Tony Marshall/Getty Images
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A penalty decision isn’t the reason that Tottenham waxed Swansea City on Saturday, but that’s what Bob Bradley was asked about after Swans sank to the Premier League basement.

The 5-0 loss actually could’ve been worse, as Swansea’s out-of-depth defensive players looked oarless — forget the rudder.

[ MORE: Match recap ]

Alas there was some controversy in the penalty won by Dele Alli and converted by Harry Kane, and Bradley was not pleased with the decision (although he obviously knows the issues run deeper than a whistle and a point to the spot).

It was one of those days where all progress feels undone.

From the BBC:

“I didn’t think the referee was in a good position and that certainly changed the game.

“Today is a big concern. I think the starting point was Tottenham, physically, got to every ball faster. On a day like today it feels like we have a long, long way to go.”

Swans are still just a win from safety, though their nine points now trail both Sunderland and Hull City (11 each, with the latter playing Monday at Middlesbrough).

Follow @NicholasMendola

El Clasico: Ramos’ 90th minute equalizer leaves Real, Barca level (video)

BARCELONA, SPAIN - DECEMBER 03:  Luis Suarez (2nd L) of FC Barcelona and Sergio Ramos (L) of Real Madrid CF fight for the ball during the La Liga match between FC Barcelona and Real Madrid CF at Camp Nou stadium on December 3, 2016 in Barcelona, Spain.  (Photo by Alex Caparros/Getty Images)
Photo by Alex Caparros/Getty Images
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Real Madrid’s six-point table lead over Barcelona remains thanks to Sergio Ramos’ heroics near both goal lines, as La Liga’s leaders came back to draw 1-1 at Camp Nou on Saturday in the first El Clasico of the season.

Luis Suarez gave Barca a second-half lead only to see Ramos claw one back and then save a goal at the death.

[ MORE: Latest Premier League standings ]

It’s no surprise that Ronaldo was lively, and one of his two shots saved by Ter Stegen after a clever dribble inside the 18.

Messi had a moment, too, his free kick dipping around the wall but into the waiting arms of Keylor Navas.

[ MORE: Full lineups, stats, box score ]

A careful Messi dribble ended with a lofted ball that Luis Suarez chose to trap rather than volley, and Real Madrid killed the chance for a corner kick.

Suarez put Barca up off Neymar’s arrow of a free kick, slightly redirecting the tight-angle shot with his head.

Neymar nearly made it 2-0 in the 68th minute, dribbling through Real’s right side before sailing a shot over Navas and the goal.

Andres Iniesta sprung Messi through in the 82nd minute, but the Argentine dragged his shot wide of goal.

The chances came late for Real, with Sergio Ramos heading a corner just over a leaping Ter Stegen… and the bar. Then Jordi Alba cleared Ronaldo’s in-tight header off the line after Marcelo’s terrific cross.

The equalizer came in the 90th minute, as Ramos rose high to head his chance off a diving Ter Stegen and into the goal. Barca answered with a chance of their own, but Ramos cleared the chance off the line.

Follow @NicholasMendola