As in most sports, MLS rivalries seem to be born out of regional proximity or tense past competitions. The one between Columbus and Real Salt Lake decidedly stems from the latter, and it’s picking up steam.
The Crew’s 1-0 win over Real Salt Lake last Saturday didn’t erase the memories of Columbus' flameout from last year's playoffs, when eighth-seeded RSL prevented the Supporters’ Shield winners from going after a second straight MLS Cup.
And the victory didn’t do anything to cool the Crew’s ego, which was very much intact after they dumped the defending MLS champs to a 1-3-1 record this season.
"They’re walking around as the champions,” Crew goalkeeper William Hesmer said of RSL. “They’ve been saying they’re the champions. They were sub-.500 last year. So that doesn’t sit well with us. We clearly feel we’ve been the class of the league the past two years and we wanted to prove it.”
Added Crew technical director Brian Bliss: “There’s a fine line as champion between cockiness and playing with an air of confidence and being arrogant.”
Each side took shots – intentionally or not – at each other, punctuated by the scrap between the Crew’s Jason Garey and RSL’s Jámison Olave at the final whistle.
RSL coach Jason Kreis thought the Crew played their best game of the season in the win, implying that the hosts could barely hold off an RSL team that sat injured stars Javier Morales and Robbie Findley the first 62 minutes of the match.
Consider the rivalry a welcome one for Columbus, which has gone without a real foil perhaps since Marco Etcheverry and D.C. United topped them in the Eastern Conference finals from 1997-99.
Yellow Fever: A rivalry could also be brewing with Seattle Sounders FC. First, Seattle took Crew coach Sigi Schmid after he won the MLS Cup in 2008. Then his new club waltzed into Crew Stadium in October and ended the Crew’s record 24-game unbeaten streak.
Last week, Seattle unveiled their third kit, which looks similar to the Crew’s signature all-yellow kit known throughout the league.
“Sigi probably designed it,” Rogers said. “It’s pretty cool.”
Meanwhile, Rogers has a fashion request: “I wish we would get an all-white for the summer when it’s 200 degrees here and it’s humid -- white with some gold.”
The Grass Might Be Greener: First, the good news: The number of fake fields was cut in half this year when Toronto FC installed grass at BMO Field and Red Bull Arena opened au natural.
The bad news: The Crew’s upcoming match on Saturday at Qwest Field is on artificial turf. Crew coach Robert Warzycha has tried to limit forward Guillermo Barros Schelotto’s time on turf, evidenced by Schelotto playing just the last 20 minutes in the first trip to Seattle in 2009.
The Crew, however, have enjoyed two byes in April, so resting Schelotto at this point doesn’t make much sense, especially when he leads the team with three goals this season.
Seeing Clearly Now: Hesmer had a huge game against Real Salt Lake, despite some issues with a new Mercedes the goalkeeper picked up Thursday.
The new vehicle was immediately struck by an errant stone that caused a crack on the driver side of the glass.
“Eight miles,” Hesmer said of the distance he had gone before the incident.
A Number of Things: Schelotto is up to 27 career goals, one behind Crew TV analyst Dante Washington for fifth on the all-time club list. … At 2-0-1, the Crew are tied with the 2003 squad for the best start in club history. That team finished 10-12-8 and did not make the playoffs.