Through the years, many teams can be called rivals in Major League Soccer. Some due to geographic proximity. Some due to one pivotal moment.
But from 2009’s MLS Cup Final through the playoffs in 2014, there may not have been a more fierce series between successful clubs battling a respectful duel for league supremacy than Real Salt Lake and the LA Galaxy.
The two teams met in the 2009 final in Seattle, with RSL lifting the trophy in a shootout and went on to square off in the playoffs in three of the next five years, with LA going 3-1-2 in the six postseason matches. Head-to-head, they went 6-6-1 against each other in the regular season and the Galaxy held an overall mark of 85-42-39 (294 points) while RSL was 78-44-44 (278 points). Only Seattle Sounders FC separated the two teams in the regular season standings (Seattle went 82-47-37 for 283 points), but RSL had more playoff success than Seattle in that same stretch.
While RSL missed the playoffs in 2015, ending a streak of five straight seasons with 15 wins and 50 points (a feat equaled only by LA to that point), the bitterness of that rivalry from ‘09-’14 still holds strong between the two clubs.
So when Chris Wingert was asked on Wednesday if RSL strives to reach the level of the Galaxy, he took pride in his own club’s success rather than envying the success of LA.
“We want to be like RSL,” he exclaimed on the O’Connell and Swinney Show on ESPN 700. “In terms of the success they’ve had, absolutely we respect them. They had a great run for a five-year period – probably the only team in the league that had a little bit more success than us, but we had a ton of success throughout that time as well. The two organizations go about things a little differently and we’re proud of the way we go about things and the personnel that we have. Whenever we meet up against the Galaxy we know that it’s going to be a big challenge because of how good they have been and continue to be, but I think they have the same respect for us in that sense.”
RSL went 1-1-1 in the regular season against the Galaxy last year despite the gap in the standings and also eliminated the Galaxy in the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup.
Now they meet for the first of three clashes in the 2016 MLS regular season on Saturday at the StubHub Center and with RSL looking to extend six-game unbeaten streak to the start the season, the Galaxy is looking to find its identity in the earlygoing.
“We’re off to a decent start but it’s still super early,” said Wingert of his 4-0-2 club that will face 3-1-2 Galaxy. “I think this weekend’s going to be a huge test for us. We’re looking forward to the challenge. At LA is always a fun one. It will be exciting and a big test for us.”
To hear the full interview, click here.