Crew View: RSL rivalry starts to get real

Tight win doesn't erase 2009 memories for Columbus

As in most sports, MLS rivalries
seem to be born out of regional proximity or tense past competitions. The one between
Columbus and Real Salt Lake decidedly stems from the latter, and it’s picking
up steam.

The Crew’s 1-0  win over Real Salt Lake last Saturday didn’t
erase the memories of Columbus' flameout from last year's playoffs, when eighth-seeded
RSL prevented the Supporters’ Shield winners from going after a second straight
MLS Cup.

And the victory didn’t do anything
to cool the Crew’s ego, which was very much intact after they dumped the
defending MLS champs to a 1-3-1 record this season.

"They’re walking around as the
champions,” Crew goalkeeper William Hesmer said of RSL. “They’ve been saying
they’re the champions. They were sub-.500 last year. So that doesn’t sit well
with us. We clearly feel we’ve been the class of the league the past two years
and we wanted to prove it.”

Added Crew technical director
Brian Bliss: “There’s a fine line as champion between cockiness and playing
with an air of confidence and being arrogant.”

Each side took shots –
intentionally or not – at each other, punctuated by the scrap between the Crew’s
Jason Garey and RSL’s Jámison Olave at the final whistle.

RSL coach Jason Kreis thought the
Crew played their best game of the season in the win, implying that the hosts
could barely hold off an RSL team that sat injured stars Javier Morales and
Robbie Findley the first 62 minutes of the match.

Consider the rivalry a welcome one
for Columbus, which has gone without a real foil perhaps since Marco Etcheverry
and D.C. United topped them in the Eastern Conference finals from 1997-99.

Yellow Fever: A rivalry could also
be brewing with Seattle Sounders FC.  First,
Seattle took Crew coach Sigi Schmid after he won the MLS Cup in 2008. Then his
new club waltzed into Crew Stadium in October and ended the Crew’s record
24-game unbeaten streak.

Last week, Seattle unveiled their
third kit, which looks similar to the Crew’s signature all-yellow kit known
throughout the league.

“Sigi probably designed it,”
Rogers said. “It’s pretty cool.”

Meanwhile, Rogers has a fashion request:
“I wish we would get an all-white for the summer when it’s 200 degrees here and
it’s humid -- white with some gold.”

The Grass Might Be Greener: First,
the good news: The number of fake fields was cut in half this year when
Toronto FC installed grass at BMO Field and Red Bull Arena opened au natural.

The bad news: The Crew’s upcoming
match on Saturday at Qwest Field is on artificial turf. Crew coach Robert Warzycha
has tried to limit forward Guillermo Barros Schelotto’s time on turf, evidenced
by Schelotto playing just the last 20 minutes in the first trip to Seattle in
2009.

The Crew, however, have enjoyed two
byes in April, so resting Schelotto at this point doesn’t make much sense,
especially when he leads the team with three goals this season.

Seeing Clearly Now: Hesmer had a
huge game against Real Salt Lake, despite some issues with a new Mercedes the goalkeeper
picked up Thursday.

The new vehicle was immediately
struck by an errant stone that caused a crack on the driver side of the glass.

“Eight miles,” Hesmer said of the
distance he had gone before the incident.

A Number of Things: Schelotto is
up to 27 career goals, one behind Crew TV analyst Dante Washington for fifth on
the all-time club list. … At 2-0-1, the Crew are tied with the 2003 squad for the best start
in club history. That team finished 10-12-8 and did not make the playoffs.