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Choosing teams to dislike the least

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Thoughts on MLS and RSL, a bit of history, and a ranking of all 22 teams.

MLS: SuperDraft Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

Real Salt Lake is my team and Major League Soccer is my league. People say, but what about the Premier League? La Liga? Bundesliga? They tell me those leagues are better. Maybe. But RSL is my team and MLS is my league. It’s a hierarchy superseded only by the US National Team.

Almost three years ago my friend—one of the best Utah studies teachers in the state—had a U of U student observing his classes just down the hall.

At lunch during his weekly visits—let’s call him Ron—our discussions would invariably turn to the previous RSL match. One day I walked into my friend’s classroom to a question: If RSL didn’t exist, who would I support? It was Ron’s question.

MLS: Portland Timbers at Real Salt Lake Chris Nicoll-USA TODAY Sports

At the time, my answer was Portland Timbers or Seattle Sounders (mostly because they have green kits and green is my favorite color). Ron said LA Galaxy. LA Galaxy? Seriously? If you’re an RSL fan, you know a couple of things deep in the marrow of your bones: LA and SKC are the worst. The league wants us to have a rivalry with Colorado, but there really isn’t as much to that as there is with stupid LA and especially smelly Sporting Kansas City. We berated Ron. LA. Gross.

2014 MLS Cup - New England Revolution v Los Angeles Galaxy Photo by Victor Decolongon/Getty Images

It was Jeff Cassar’s first year at the helm. RSL snagged the third spot in the Western Conference. With the results of the US Open Cup and MLS Supporters’ Shield going to the Seattle Sounders, it meant RSL would get a CONCACAF Champions League berth should LA happen to win MLS Cup. It was filthy. Slimy. Putrid. I had to pull for LA to win because that was best for RSL. No amount of showering and scrubbing with Brillo pads could take the stink out of that support, but LA defeated the New England Revolution and RSL got into CCL.

The following season was a broken rollercoaster tugged by a rusted chain through a pungent swamp. It was the season where Portland or Seattle ceased being a possible answer to Ron’s question. I developed a loathing for all teams Western Conference.

Our historic playoff streak on the line, matches against Western Conference teams took on a distinct gravitas. As our season points stagnated and our playoff hopes withered, I started to see the entire Western Conference for what they are: demons spawned from abyssal pits of fetid depravity bent on a single-minded slaughter of RSL’s season.

No longer is that second favorite Portland or Seattle. They’ve joined the ranks of LA and SKC as reviled adversaries. Dallas and Houston are terrible for much more than the fact that they’re in Texas. Even Colorado and San Jose and Vancouver are dredged up slime.

MLS: U.S. Open Cup-Real Salt Lake at Sporting Kansas City Peter G. Aiken-USA TODAY Sports

Ron was ridiculous for picking LA, but I had transgressed. There is no liking Western Conference teams. It’s wrong. If you find yourself maybe thinking it might be okay to consider pulling for a Western Conference team, let me know so I can wag my finger at you as a reminder.

Must I now demand failure from Dallas and Vancouver in their upcoming CCL matches? Far from it. RSL is my team and MLS is my league. All enmity ceases when RSL’s standing is no longer on the line. When MLS teams are up against CONCACAF teams, how the MLS teams played against RSL doesn’t matter. They’re MLS teams and they’re who I pull for.

When Montreal Impact won the Canadian Championship and earned their spot in CCL, I was disgusted. How could this team, barely better than the laughable Chivas USA who had just been dissolved, possibly represent my league? How would they make MLS look?

MLS: CONCACAF Champions League-Club America at Montreal Impact Jean-Yves Ahern-USA TODAY Sports

Pretty good. They joined RSL as the only other non-Mexican team to play in the modern iteration of the CONCACAF Champions League Final. They lost. Like we lost. It was sad, but I was firmly behind Montreal. They’re not a despised Western Conference team, but we do play against them. Still, Montreal won me over. It’s time MLS teams start winning that CCL title.

RSL is my team and MLS is my league.

So here’s a fun, entirely non-scientific, emotionally-based list of my personal team hierarchy. Make your own in the comments section!

  1. Real Salt Lake
  2. Montreal Impact—Like I said, they won me over. And Nacho Piatti is probably my favorite non-RSL player in MLS.
  3. New England Revolution—My wife’s from Massachusetts. We lived in New Hampshire just after we were married. Plus, I rather like Jay Heaps as a coach. Oh, and Andrew Farrell and Diego Fagúndez!
  4. Toronto FC—This is for reasons of USMNT synergy: familiarity between Michael Bradley and Jozy Altidore. And Sebastian Giovinco is something else.
  5. DC United—I had a friend growing up who was a DC United fan at the inception of the league, so they had name recognition when I was a teenager. I was stationed in DC while in the Army. I still can’t forgive that 2013 Open Cup final, though. Boils my blood!
  6. Philadelphia Union—They’ve had a rough go and Chris Pontius made me a stack of points in MLS Fantasy Soccer last year.
  7. Columbus Crew—Dunny played there, right? I like Dunny. I’m a fan of Will Trapp, too.
  8. Chicago Fire—I kinda want them to stop being terrible.
  9. Atlanta United—I went to basic training in Georgia. Umm. How about Greg Garza? I’ll go with that.
  10. Orlando City—I still cry myself to sleep at the loss of Jason Kreis, but coaches move on. He had to give himself that shot with NYCFC. I’m glad Orlando are giving him a go.
  11. New York Red Bulls—I don’t like energy drinks. They taste like Smarties. And they’re in New Jersey, anyway.
  12. NYCFC—I love when they lose. Sometimes, shhhh, even to Western Conference teams. Stupid stadium.
  13. Minnesota United—They’re new. I love their crest. A lot. I’ll despise them soon enough, though. Soon enough.
  14. Vancouver Whitecaps—We’ve had our ups and downs through the seasons. I don’t like them, but they’re Canadian and Canadians are nice. Plus, poutine (I know, I know, it’s a Québec thing, but they make it in Vancouver!). Ousted smells like Denmark, though.
  15. San Jose Earthquakes—They’re annoying. Even when they’re having a terrible season, they seem to play well against us. And Bernardez. Who does he think he is? Scoring headers during stoppage time. Rude.
  16. FC Dallas—Sure, they’re from Texas; however, I think Oscar Pareja is the best coach in the league. And then there’s Javi and more of my tears.
  17. Houston Dynamo—The other Texas team. They’ve not been a good team in three seasons. There’s a bit of pity here. I do like the color orange. Not as much as I like green, but orange kits are unique and that’s just swell.
  18. Portland Timbers—We rolled the Timbers in 2013. We had their number. But they’ve had it out for us recently. And they steal our players. And I’m jealous of their green and gold kits. Those look really good.
  19. Seattle Sounders—Seattle’s a nice place. My brother was born there. Many of their fans are okay. Some are really, really obnoxious. Seriously. As annoying as they come.
  20. Colorado Rapids—Sure, they’re our Rocky Mountain Cup rivals, but we’ve got a strong grip on that with an 8-4 record across the twelve contested seasons. I have a friend who lives in Colorado Springs.
  21. LA Galaxy—LA is horrible. Too many people. The league makes and changes rules on a whim so LA can have whatever they want. The players only want to play in LA so they can feel cool around movie stars. Lame.
  22. Sporting Kansas City—SKC are our true rivals. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise. It’s probably the most organic rivalry in the league. It developed on and off the field, through players, fans, and management. It isn’t geographical or traditional, but is pure and natural. You’re not allowed to like them. They smell funny. I do like their argyle kits. I’m ashamed I just said something nice.