For 10 years in Major League Soccer the Rapids were without a clear rival--until Real Salt Lake joined the league in 2005. As geography demands, Rapids fans tend to despise Salt Lake. But that disdain often accompanies an annoying measure of respect for RSL's management and play on the field. Fortunately, this does not interfere with the rivalry, which is always intense. But since it can be hard (though not impossible) to hate RSL, it could be fun to loathe another team instead. And the Rapids could use a secondary rival. But who?
I give you the San Jose Earthquakes. The obvious difference between the Quakes and RSL is class. San Jose plays somewhere between excessively aggressive and dirty. Their elbows are usually up, they grab and push, and they have no qualms about running through opponents. During an in-game interview on Saturday, head coach Frank Yallop said the key to the game was to get the ball to Marvin Chavez (one of the few skilled players on San Jose ) to let him do his thing. Translation: ‘The Rapids are defending well, and we may not be able to bully our way to a win today. Save us Marvin!' And get the tying goal Chavez did...after skillfully falling down untouched to earn a Rapids yellow card and a free kick.
Led by Chavez, a talented winger who seemingly can't stay on his feet if an opposing player gets anywhere near him, the Quakes dive all over the field. This runs contrary to their tough guy aura, but it's their M.O. nonetheless. In addition, their most successful player, Chris Wondolowski, is a candidate for the league's biggest whiner. Along with many of his teammates, he seems to accost the referee after every call. Nevermind bitching about the big calls (a guarantee), but every throw in seems to be a crime against the ‘Quakes. Wondo is not above taking a little dive himself either. Shane O'Neill made a rookie mistake in bailing out Wondo on the play that led to O'Neill's dismissal late in the game on Saturday. Wondo had misplayed the ball and Irwin would have corralled it. Knowing this and sensing O'Neill's challenge coming, Wondo left his foot in and fell. Luis Suarez would be proud.
We can respect the ‘Quakes recent success and acknowledge that they are a team to be reckoned with, but it takes a special level of forgiveness to respect them as a team. Maybe this combination makes them an ideal secondary rival for the Rapids.