Seattle • Whenever Real Salt Lake plays the Seattle Sounders, something always seems to be on the line. The reason? Ever since the Sounders entered the league in 2009, they've basically been one of the top teams in MLS, right alongside RSL.
Heading into Saturday's game, RSL had gone 48-30-28 (172 points) with a plus-47 goal differential over the last three-plus seasons. The Sounders, meanwhile, were 51-25-27 with a plus-42 goal differential. They are also just two of four teams to make the playoffs in each of the past three seasons.
Head-to-head, it's pretty much the same deal. The two teams have split their eight matches (including playoffs) 3-3-2 and scored nine goals apiece.
Those kinds of dueling achievements have bred a certain mutual respect.
"It's a fun game," RSL general manager Garth Lagerwey said on Friday. "We have still have some instances of teams coming into Seattle or Utah and park the bus. I think the both of us are committed to playing attacking soccer. They tend to be open, tend to be exciting. They are games we look forward to."
Lagerwey prefers to keep the term "rival" reserved for teams like Rocky Mountain Cup foe Colorado, but thinks games against the Sounders slot in somewhere right below in terms of importance.
"It's a really good team," Lagerwey said of the Sounders. "We're really chasing them. It's a tough place to play, but also a fun place to play. It's great for our league."
The respect goes both ways.
"They realize we like to play and we're good and quick," Sounders center back Jeff Parke said. "They are strong and physical and definitely a good team. They can definitely get after it.
"It's a team you put a check next to and remember when you're going to play them."