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.