To say that the game tonight between Real Salt Lake and Sporting Kansas City is big is a lie. It might be bigger than big. The US Open Cup semifinal matchup at Sporting Park may not be on ESPN or FOX but it has every twinge of an epic game waiting to happen.
It has one team spouting off like it usually does before every RSL-SKC rivalry game and it has another coach talking like he’s Joe Willie Namath. The winner gets a spot in the Open Cup final, so there’s that too.
If you have a short memory, the Open Cup is the same tournament in which RSL lost at home to DC United two years ago– the last time the claret and cobalt got within sniffing distance of a major title.
Normally this tourney means nothing. RSL inserts a few reserves and a backup goalkeeper into the mix and often it loses to some team from a lower division–or some team Eric Wynalda is coaching. No big deal. But this year, this shot at a trophy for RSL might be as good as it gets in 2015–but there’s more to this story.
For starters, RSL and SKC hate each other–to a point where Sporting KC has actually changed its Twitter handle for the day to #BeatRSL. Meanwhile, RSL fans have taken to Twitter, ending their tweets with the seriously insulting hashtag #FUKC–which leaves nothing to the imagination, really.
One RSL fan with the handle @HibaIssa was mad insulted when she discovered SKC was changing their handle to #BeatRSL. And so she and other claret and cobalt enthusiasts trotted out the unofficial hashtag RSL fans have been using since the day they froze to death watching their team lose the MLS Cup final to this same dumb Sporting KC team back in God knows what year.
Oh, by the way, that #FUKC slogan was on shirts of many RSL fans who braved near-freezing temps at Sporting Park and a missed Sebastian Velasquez PK–breaking the hearts of everyone from Tremonton to the Four Corners who believed they could win another MLS Cup title.
Now that hatred has been rekindled on social media, courtesy of a few angry RSL fans. “SKC actually changed their Twitter name to #BeatRSL? Oh ok. #FUKC,” @HibaIssa tweeted. About 30 other RSL fans followed suit, including one who started taking shots at SKC midfielder Graham Zusi about his pizza-eating technique and numerous others who trolled Public Enemy No. 1, SKC mid Benny Feilhaber.
Considering RSL is also oh-and-alot at Sporting Park, this makes the game even more interesting–even if it isn’t on TV anywhere in the Western Hemisphere. But the beat downs haven’t just taken place on Twitter–they’re everywhere leading up to this one.
RSL is already in a bad mood. It currently sits outside of the playoffs with less than two months to go in the regular season. It barely wins on the road. And so for this club, right now this away game in a hostile place means everything–which is why RSL decided to sit most of its starters Saturday in a 4-0 blowout loss at Vancouver.
Making such a decision put a ton of pressure on RSL head coach Jeff Cassar, who now has the monumental task of explaining himself if his team loses tonight. But that’s because Cassar went all Joe Willie Namath on the media, virtually guaranteeing a victory for RSL. If this was poker, Cassar would be Phil Helmuth going all-in at the World Series of Poker with a pair of deuces.
Don’t believe the messenger–or just think he’s a doooosh? Read for yourself the juicy quote Cassar gave to his own team’s Web site–the kind of place where every word is so tightly monitored you’d probably have to sneak it past three editors, two who think they’re editors and 10 other proofreaders just to get it on the page.
On the one hand you have to admire Cassar’s audacity–but on the other hand you’re like, wha-what? What in the heck is this Howdy Doody dude THINKING?!? “After a victory on Wednesday, it’s gonna look really good,” said Nostradamus Namath, er, Cassar of his decision to rest players in Vancouver and his thoughts on his team’s upcoming W in a game they hasn’t even played.
Sure, Zusi might not play for SKC tonight because he’s dinged up and eating pizza–and Roger Espinoza certainly isn’t suiting up because he’s suspended, anyway–but every other SKC goon is playing, including Feilhaber.
Ah, Feilhaber. Or, #Failharder. The player RSL fans love to hate. The No. 10 with the mullet who does things on a regular basis–even when the two teams aren’t playing–to get under Salt Lake’s skin. He hates RSL. And Utah. And RSL fans and Utahns hate him. The feeling is mutual.
So in the immortal words of Marvin Gaye, let’s get it on–even if this game for the ages isn’t on TV. The two teams could probably play this game in a park with nobody around to watch it and you’d get the same hateful result. (Watch the game on RealSaltLake.com starting at 6:30 MDT.)