Not all sports rivalries are based on geography.
The NFL has New England-Indianapolis, the NBA has Boston-Los Angeles, and now maybe MLS has something special brewing between Seattle and D.C. United.
Maybe it’s too early to tell, as the 4:30 p.m. game today at RFK Stadium will be just the third match between the clubs. But the first two meetings have provided resentments that could carry over today.
The first game brought a 3-3 draw most notable because the Sounders let a late two-goal lead slip away at home.
However, it was the second meeting that seemed to add animosity in several ways.
The U.S. Open Cup final was awarded to D.C. in a closed bidding process. Sounders general manager Adrian Hanauer implied D.C. had received favorable treatment. United president Kevin Payne fired back that the first-year Sounders shouldn’t expect things to be given to them.
During the game, D.C. goalkeeper Josh Wicks received a red card for stomping his studs into Fredy Montero’s thigh after the first goal. And then, maybe most importantly, the first-year club took the Open Cup from an MLS charter member that prides itself on winning trophies.
“That’s the most important thing,” Sounders veteran defender Tyrone Marshall said. “You go into someone’s house and take their things and then you can say, ‘Listen, man, we came in and we did the job properly and we deserved it.’ That’s what it’s all about. It’s good to get a little rivalry going, and talking back and forth with good sportsmanship. But at the end of the day, you have to get on the pitch and do it.”
Hanauer and Payne say their verbal sparring is behind them and that no personal animosity exists.
However, it is unlikely that D.C. United fans will be as forgiving when the Sounders make their return visit today.
Meanwhile, the Sounders are sure to remember that their leading goal-scorer was intentionally stepped on by the United goalkeeper, and that DCU has announced no discipline against him. In fact, Wicks is free to start in goal again today, because tournament red cards have no effect on league play.
“If you look at the bruises on Montero, he got bruised pretty good,” Sounders coach Sigi Schmid said this week. “But certainly (discipline) is something for U.S. Soccer to decide. I know D.C. United came out and said there is going to be an internal punishment. They haven’t said what that is yet. But those are their problems. I’ll focus on my team, and they can focus on Josh Wicks.”
Montero said there is no personal score to settle today.
“It’s not an individual thing at all,” he said in Spanish through a translator. “It’s all based on the team, and what I want to do is help the team win. I was able to do that in an important cup final, and now it’s just a matter of doing the same thing in an important game.”
Even without the rivalry, this qualifies as an important game.
In a league where the top eight teams make the playoffs, D.C. United is tied for fifth in the MLS standings, while Seattle is seventh. Going into play today, four teams loom within three points – one victory – of the Sounders. Seattle has the added difficulty of playing four of its final six games on the road.
“With the Open Cup behind us, our focus is on the league,” Schmid said. “ ... In terms of getting into the playoffs, there’s 18 points out there for us to grab a hold of, so we have to grab as many points as we can.”
Don Ruiz, 253-597-8808
SEATTLE SOUNDERS FC (8-6-10; 34 pts.) AT D.C. UNITED (8-5-12; 36)
Kickoff: 4:30 p.m., RFK Stadium
TV: KONG 6/16.
Radio: 97.3-FM; 1210-AM Spanish.
Head-to-head: Clubs played to 3-3 draw at Qwest Field on June 17. Seattle defeated D.C. in U.S. Open Cup final Sept. 2 at RFK.
Team leaders: For Seattle – G 10 Fredy Montero; A 7 Nate Jaqua; S 66 Montero; SOG 23 Montero. For D.C. – G 9 Luciano Emilio; A 6 Santino Quaranta; S 49 Chris Pontius; SOG 27 Emilio.
Coach Sigi Schmid scouting report: “They might flop back into four in the back, especially with (Dejan) Jakovic injured and (Marc) Burch now being injured as well. The assumption is that they will come with a 4-4-2, because the 3-5-2 obviously didn’t get them the result they were looking for (in the cup final).”
Notes: DCU is 6-0-5 at home in the regular season, Seattle is 2-4-5 on the road. ... Seattle midfielder Freddie Ljungberg is out (caution accumulation), midfielder Stephen King (hamstring) is questionable, and defender Tyrone Marshall (hamstring) is probable.
Next: Noon Sept. 19, vs. Chivas USA, Qwest Field.
Don Ruiz, The News Tribune