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Put the rivalry on hold: Why SKC, RSL matchup is about more than just bad feelings

John Rieger-USA TODAY Sports

Real Salt Lake's relationship with Sporting Kansas City is one that started its tumultuous turns in 2011, and it hasn't eased up since.

From "Ticketgate" (no, it's not a hotel) to hard-tackling, hard-nosed play, there's been something for everyone. That's not going to change soon, and I guess I like that.

But when you think about matches with Sporting Kansas City now, it's a little bit like they've lost some of their luster. Aurelien Collin, public enemy number one — a red card perpetually-in-waiting to happen, is in Orlando City, plying his trade there.

Dom Dwyer, whose feisty, sparky attitude meshed well with a Dempsey-esque tendency to get confrontational, isn't quite a wantaway to that same Orlando club, but he isn't far off.

Meanwhile, SKC keeps rising up the chain of the Western Conference — back in it this year — and they're now sitting in a comfortable third place position. Still, their third to RSL's ninth is a measly six-point difference, which is far from irrecoverable.

But those woes RSL's been experiencing probably take priority right now, which is both a shame and a relief. We saw the same thing with the match against Colorado Rapids: An historic rivalry was jettisoned for a match in favor of simply trying to secure one or three points (preferably three, of course.) And while there's less historicism around the SKC-RSL matchup, it's still something that will probably go out the window for a day.

Yes, that means it won't be about how the two sides are "diametrically opposed" in their styles, and it won't be about how certain members of SKC "hate (RSL) very much." No, that stuff's not particularly important right now. Three points, on the other hand? Yeah, that's important. After all, with a Sporting win, the deficit would be nine points between the two sides, with the enemy still holding a game in hand.

That's where things start to get untenable. As RSL shifts focus toward the Western Conference, every game is going to matter just a little bit more. The gap is still slim between RSL and the playoff spots, but a few key losses could widen the divide