Few matchups in the history of Major League Soccer have been as good and as competitive as the Earthuakes-Wizards rivalry. Including the playoffs and the U.S. Open Cup, the Quakes and the Wizards have met 40 teams in nine years. (Only the Quakes and Los Angeles Galaxy have played more games against each other - 43). In 2003, the Quakes beat K.C. in the playoffs on their way to the MLS title. In 2004, K.C. beat the Quakes on their way to the MLS Cup Final.
These two teams just seem to keep getting in each other's way. They have met 11 times over the last two seasons. But, because of league expansion and the Wizards move to the Eastern Conference, Saturday night's game at Spartan Stadium is one of only two games they'll play this year, and it is Kansas City's only appearance in San Jose.
Who will forget the Western Conference Final in Spartan Stadium in 2003, when Landon Donovan scored in the 117th minute to beat the Wizards 3-2? That win sent the Quakes on to the MLS Cup, where they beat Chicago and won their second title in three years. The Wizards went home to the Midwest to enjoy another beautiful winter, with plenty of time to think about what might have been if they hadn't blown a 2-1 lead in the 82nd minute. On their way to the MLS Cup Final in 2004, K.C. overcame a first game 2-0 loss to eliminate the Quakes with a 3-0 second game win in the first round of the playoffs. Kansas City then lost the championship game to D.C. United. The Wizards remain one MLS title short of the Quakes.
This series may not have the vitriol and passion associated with the Quakes-Galaxy get-togethers (turned up a notch this year with Landon Donovan in a Galaxy uniform), but you can almost always count on a hard-fought battle when the Quakes take on K.C. Just one time in the series has a team beat the other as many as three times in a row, and never has there been a three-game losing streak in the series. In the 40-game series, the Quakes have 18 wins, the Wizards have 16 and there have been six ties.
It's easy enough to recall many of the 11 goals Preki scored in 24 games against San Jose, but Ronald Cerritos isn't far behind. He has nine goals in only 14 games against the Wizards.
As the league celebrates its 10th season of existence, we've heard so much about some of the "new rivalries" that have been created: the Honda Clásico (L.A. Galaxy vs. Chivas USA) and the battle for the Rocky Mountain Cup (Colorado Rapids vs. Real Salt Lake).
But the diehard fans certainly won't forget about the real rivalries any more than you could forget the image of San Jose Clash striker Paul Bravo bearing down on goalie Garth Lagerway of the Kansas City Wiz. That was in the beginning. It has only gotten better.
John Shrader has been the voice of the Earthquakes since 1996 and has worked in television and radio in the Bay Area for the past 20 years.