SANDY — Since Real Salt Lake stunned the L.A. Galaxy in MLS Cup 2009, there’s been a very unique rivalry between the clubs.
All of their matches in the four years since that title bout have been marquee matches in MLS that usually have had significant playoff and Supporters’ Shield implications.
In fact, since that 2009 final Los Angeles and Real Salt Lake have collected the most points in the league, with L.A. holding a 233 to 222 point edge. Seattle has the third most points during that stretch with 219, followed by New York with 213 and Kansas City with 211.
The West rivals will renew their unique rivalry in the MLS playoffs this week, something Real Salt Lake players talked about with much excitement after training on Monday.
“I think if you want to win MLS Cup you have to beat the best teams, and you can see with the success they’ve had the last few years they’re one of the best teams in this league,” said RSL defender Nat Borchers.
Game 1 of the two-game series will be played at the StubHub Center in California this Sunday at 7 p.m. MDT, with the match broadcast nationally on ESPN. The return leg at Rio Tinto Stadium won’t be announced until Tuesday, but will likely either be played on Thursday, Nov. 7 or Saturday, Nov. 9.
“It’s going to be a great series. They’re a great team. We’ve had fantastic games against each other. It’s definitely not going to be a boring match,” said RSL 'keeper Nick Rimando. “They have a great offense, so do we. They have a great defense, so do we. So I think we match up good against each other.”
Los Angeles prevailed in two of three meetings against Real Salt Lake this year, including a 4-2 win back on Aug. 17 in the only game at the StubHub Center.
“It’s a big challenge for us to play an incredibly good team, a team when we played them this year proved to be better than us, so it’s a big challenge,” said RSL coach Jason Kreis.
The Galaxy are particularly tough at home, where they’re 11-2-4 this season, tied for the third-best mark in MLS. Real Salt Lake is one of the best road teams in MLS with a 6-7-4 away record this season, which should make for a very exciting opening game.
Los Angeles enters the playoffs with a 2-0-2 record over its final four games of the regular season, while RSL is also 2-0-2.
Asked if the conference semifinal is an opportunity to make a statement against a big market team, Rimando said he’s not worried about that right now.
“We’ve proven over the course of the season we’re a pretty good team ourselves. It’s not about making a statement; it’s just going out and playing and do what we can do,” he said. “We know they’re a great team — they’re the two-time MLS champs — but you can’t give them too much respect if you want to go out there and hit them around a little bit and win the game.”
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