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Three Kinds of Deception and RSL’s rivalry with Sporting Kansas City

It’s not a war, but it is one of the more heated rivalries in MLS.

Real Salt Lake   v Sporting Kansas City Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images

In November, 2013, my friends and I decided to go to Portland to see the second leg of the Western Conference Final. After RSL won and learned they were going to take on SKC, I was beside myself with excitement. “Should we go, should we go?” my friends kept asking. “I don’t know! Let me think…” I said as I went to the bathroom. On my way down, I ran into a Timbers fan and I didn’t know what to say. He asked if I wanted to trade scarves, and I was honored he’d want to trade, so I agreed and wore the Timbers scarf proudly as I went to the bathroom. When I was washing my hands, the guy next to me was close to tears. “We’ll get ‘em next year, eh, buddy?” he said to me. Before I could even decode why he was including me in this “we”, I said “You got it, man.” He hugged me and then it hit me. In traded scarves, I suddenly turned into someone who resembled a Timbers supporter.

There’s this episode in a podcast I love and listen to when I have time to called This American Life. The episode includes three acts which feature three kinds of deception: self-deception, deceiving others, and accidental deception. I feel like this is the best way for me to describe the levels of “rivalries” that the MLS likes to thrust upon its supporters. The league deceives themselves by making rivalries out of teams that are geographically closer to each other than they are any other team. They deceive others by having these geographic teams play on the same weekend (something RSL and Colorado are rarely included in, by the way) and as a result, many fans are accidentally deceived into thinking that these are actual rivalries, and sometimes treat these games as such.

The most recent attempt was the billboard that Atlanta United had put up in Orlando. Both coaches were asked about this potential rivalry, and both literally sounded dumbfounded. As though a billboard could actually start a rivalry between two teams that had never played before in their short history. But this article isn’t about them, it’s about RSL and SKC. Now, there has been much written about these teams, and each fan base hates the other, so I don’t want to go too much into that. Instead, I want to try to bring RSL fans reading this away from the three kinds of deception trap when it comes to playing SKC today. This is entirely my own opinion, not based on too many facts, so please feel free to argue with me about everything I have typed. Call me names, tell me I smell funny, do whatever you need to do, but before you do, you must promise to turn around and give it to SKC 10-fold tonight.

Self-deception: It’s just a game, we’ll get the next one.

We ended up not going to the MLS Cup Final in 2013 because #ticketgate was a thing, and it just didn’t seem worth it to try to get around that. Looking back, I think we made the right choice. Nevertheless, it took a long time to get over it; I mean, a long time. I was getting my bachelor’s degree at the time, and it was so bad that at least one of my professors (who knew about the result) gave me an extension on my final paper. I know that that was the cup and this isn’t, but I don’t think I have been able to watch an RSL vs SKC game ever since without thinking about the cup. When asked about the rivalry with Atlanta United, former RSL boss Jason Kreis said, “This is just a game. It’s not war.” He’s totally right about it not being war, but I think we can all agree that this isn’t Just a game. This is a game we need to win to improve in the standings, and this is a game that means a whole lot more to fans than the one next week. We all know this, it’s best to just accept it.

Deceiving Others: The USA Game.

Although I want to see the USA pull out a win tonight as much as any other US fan, it honestly won’t mean as much to me if RSL doesn’t also pull out a win, or a late draw, or anything but a loss, really. This rivalry is important to fans for a reason, and as such cannot be easily waved off by the outcome of another game. Similarly, if the US men lose tonight, I wouldn’t be as upset as I will be if RSL loses. I know I am not alone in feeling this way, so I ask that you all don’t try to deceive others by saying, “Hey, at least the USMNT had a good showing!” Because it doesn’t help, Bill, none of our guys are even playing in it! Just leave me alone!

Accidental Deception: Dom Dwyer.

I said it once, I will say it again, Dom Dwyer is just as bad as (possibly worse than) Besler, Feilhaber, and Zusi. I will never understand how people can say, “Hate them for SKC, but love them for USA!” No. That is not how rivalries work. My faithful RSL supporters, please don’t let yourself eat the Dom Dwyer shaped fruit from the USMNT tree. Remember this photo each time you think about giving him a pass.

2013 MLS Cup-Real Salt Lake v Sporting Kansas City Photo by Ed Zurga/Getty Images

Like Jason Kreis said, this is not life and death. We are not in a war with anyone, and if we lose, most of us will still wake up and go to work on Monday. But it is more than a game. It deserves more recognition from the league, and I hope we win tonight because it will mean a little bit more if we do.