RSL, Seattle have forged healthy rivalry

Published: Wednesday, Oct. 26 2011 2:36 p.m. MDT

Fabian Espindola #7 of Real Salt Lake battles Tyson Wahl #5 (L) and James Riley #7 of the Seattle Sounders FC at CenturyLink Field on September 10, 2011 in Seattle, Washington. Real Salt Lake defeated the Sounders 2-1.

Otto Greule Jr, Getty Images

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LEHI — In the three years since Seattle joined MLS, a nice, healthy rivalry has emerged between the Sounders and Real Salt Lake.

It's a rivalry born between the lines, not so much because of extra-curricular activities, which were the norm in the early days of the Colorado-RSL rivalry.

Over the next week, Seattle and RSL will add another couple chapters to their rivalry, which should be the most dramatic yet. Game 1 of their playoff series will be at Rio Tinto Stadium this Saturday at 8 p.m. The second game will be in Seattle next Wednesday at 8 p.m. (MDT). The first game will be broadcast on Fox Soccer and the second on ESPN2.

The all-time series between Real Salt Lake and Seattle stands at 2-2-2. This year the visiting team won both games 2-1, with a significant streak coming to an end each time.

Back on May 28, Seattle capitalized on a second-half red card to Jamison Olave to prevail 2-1 at Rio Tinto Stadium, a victory that snapped RSL's 29-game MLS home unbeaten streak.

For Seattle, the victory kick-started a nine-game unbeaten streak that vaulted it into second place in the Western Conference standings for good.

"You have to give a lot of credit to (coach) Sigi Schmid. … He knows how to get the best out of his guys just like Jason (Kreis), and he's been able to do that the last few years in Seattle," said RSL captain Kyle Beckerman.

When the teams met again on Sept. 10 in Seattle, the Sounders had become the new darlings of MLS with a six-game overall winning streak, which included a 1-0 victory Monterrey, Mexico in Champions League group play.

In a bizarre game in which RSL defender Tony Beltran and Seattle defender Jhon Kennedy Hurtado were both harshly red-carded, the visitors stunned the sellout crowd of 35,940 with the 2-1 victory.

That victory helped Salt Lake close the points gap on Seattle in the standings to 48-45, and with two games in hand, the consensus was that it was only a matter of time until RSL overtook second place.

It nearly happened as RSL moved into a second place tie with Seattle on Sept. 21, but it stumbled down the stretch with a 0-4-2 record the rest of the way.

In addition to securing the No. 2 seed in the West over the final two months of the season, Seattle also qualified for next year's CONCACAF Champions League quarterfinals, not to mention winning the U.S. Open Cup for the third consecutive year.

"Seattle is a fantastic team, they've done so many things really, really well this year, there's no doubt they deserve to be considered favorite in this series and they have the points to prove it," said RSL coach Jason Kreis.

For all the talk about RSL's pursuit of four trophies in 2011, it's ironic that Seattle is the team with hardware already this year.

In reality though, the U.S. Open Cup is fourth on everybody's pecking order of trophies, and both clubs are desperate for a shot at the MLS Cup.

Thousands of Seattle fans were cheering for RSL at Qwest Field back in 2009 when RSL beat Los Angeles to claim the MLS Cup in 2009, but a much more hostile crowd will greet the visitors in the second leg of the playoffs.

MLS playoffs

Western Conference semifinals

First leg

Seattle (18-7-9) at

Real Salt Lake (15-11-8)

Saturday, 8 p.m. MT

Rio Tinto Stadium, Sandy

TV: Fox Soccer, TSN2

Radio: 1600 AM, 99.1 FM

Note: Second leg scheduled Wednesday, Nov. 2, at Seattle

MLS playoffs

Western Conference semifinals

First leg

Seattle (18-7-9) at

Real Salt Lake (15-11-8)

Saturday, 8 p.m. MT

Rio Tinto Stadium, Sandy

TV: Fox Soccer, TSN2

Radio: 1600 AM, 99.1 FM

Note: Second leg scheduled Wednesday, Nov. 2, at Seattle

Email: jedward@desnews.com

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