SANDY, Utah — Sporting Kansas City's Dom Dwyer hates Real Salt Lake, and RSL seem keen on using his feelings as motivation going into their weekend tilt.
Dwyer, who scored the game-winner against Colorado in the 92nd minute this past Saturday, recently looked ahead to Saturday's 2013 MLS Cup final rematch against RSL by saying, “I hate them very much.” RSL are not too bothered by it.
In fact, they seem to enjoy the bulletin-board material that the Sporting KC forward has given them.
“I like it,” RSL defender Nat Borchers told reporters on Tuesday. “I like the talk. I like when teams don't like each other. And we don't like Kansas City just as much as they don't like us.”
Added head coach Jeff Cassar: “I like it. It makes my job a little easier."
The two teams have had it out for each other since a physical preseason match in 2011 that culminated with a bench-clearing brawl and was called before it was completed.
The 2013 regular-season match between RSL and SKC included 26 fouls, seven yellow cards and an ejection that left Salt Lake down a man midway through the second half. Sporting KC won 2-1 on a goal in the 97th minute.
And then there was the MLS Cup final in December, which finished at 1-1 before SKC won the championship in a penalty shootout that went 10 players deep.
“You're always going to have that game in the back of your mind,” said RSL midfielder Sebastian Velasquez. “And I think it's kind of like motivation to go into this game and know that you have this rivalry that has been built over the last couple of years. We want to beat them and show them we're the best team in the league.”
Make no mistake — there's plenty of respect for Sporting among the RSL roster. Borchers watched the end of Sporting's win over Colorado on Saturday and came away impressed.
“They're a great team. They play with a lot of confidence,” Borchers said. “What struck me the most is just how they keep fighting. They didn't give up … and they got that game-winner. That's what good teams do.”
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It's not like SKC are the central focus of the Claret-and-Cobalt. They are in different conferences and face each other only once in the regular season. For that reason alone, the rivalry is different from other ones against teams like LA, Portland, Seattle or Colorado.
Still, some bad blood with Sporting exists.
“It seems like darn near every team we have some kind of rivalry with,” Borchers said. “But I'll be honest with you, We don't have rivalries with teams that aren't good. You're not going to hate a team that you're always beating.”
Since that preseason brawl in 2011, Sporting KC have had the better of this cross-conference rivalry. They are 3-1-0 in regular-season matches with RSL and also have their win in the MLS Cup final, which was memorably played in frozen tempartures.
“Getting bashed in the face with the ball when it's 12 degrees outside isn't fun,” Borchers said. “I can't wait to play these guys. I've been thinking about them all off-season."
Scott Pierce covers Real Salt Lake for MLSsoccer.com.