Friday May 18th, 2007

Paul Giamou/MLS/
A new rivalry with teeth
One game does not make a rivalry, of course. But Chicago's introduction to Toronto FC is off to a juicy start: two coaches exchanging barbs -- about turf of all things -- before the match (including this doozy from TFC's Mo Johnston in the Toronto Sun: "I would think [the Fire] would be more concerned about playing in front of only 7,000 or 8,000 fans [in Chicago] than our turf in Toronto."); a Mike Tyson impersonation from striker Danny Dichio (it appeared as if he tried to bite Chicago's Diego Gutierrez and/or Matt Pickens) that led to two red cards; Fire players getting targeted by exuberant fans tossing seat cushions. TFC actually had to tell season-ticket holders to tone it down. Opposing players have to be a bit jealous of the atmosphere in Toronto (Just compare it to depressing scene like the one in New York on Sunday). But the league can use every spark of passion it can get. Even in the cold, dreary conditions against Houston on Wednesday -- a typical graveyard night for MLS attendance -- the supporters section was fantastic again. All in all, flying projectiles aside, this is exactly what MLS needs. The bar has been raised.
So what was it that got Dichio so hot? He explains: "I went up for a ball in the box, and as I landed the goalkeeper [Pickens] lashed out and hit me in the side of the leg. I've had a bad knee injury before, and I know that could have caused a bad injury. That's why I kind of lost my temper." Incidentally, Gutierrez told the Chicago Tribune there was indeed a bite.
So what are the best current rivalries?
The league's predominent showdown -- San Jose-Los Angeles -- sadly was silenced by the Earthquakes' move to Houston, while others (Chicago-Dallas) have been tempered by conference realignment. Picking the best rivalries is subjective -- it's not always about the play on the pitch, but it helps -- but here are my choices for the five hottest in MLS:

5. Chicago-New England -- They say true rivalries are formed in the postseason, so this one has to make the cut. The Fire and Revs have met in the playoffs in four of the past five seasons -- twice with a trip to the MLS Cup final on the line.
4. Colorado-Real Salt Lake -- There's not a lot of history here, but it's rare to see a team take such pleasure out of talking trash and rubbing it in to the rival fans. Or as Kyle Beckerman says: "[RSL fans] run their mouths the whole game. If they don't want us to celebrate, win the game."
3. Colorado-FC Dallas -- The winner of the FC Dallas-Houston series (a rivalry that just missed the cut) gets El Capitan, an 18th-century Mountain Howitzer cannon. The winner of this series gets punched by Dario Sala. To be fair: Colorado's, uh, vociferous celebrations after its 2006 playoff win over the Hoops incited the fight that led to a six-game ban for Sala. Beckerman (again) on FC Dallas fans: "The adult fans are pretty weak. The kids are good, but the adult fans were pretty weak. They're a weak, weak bunch." OK, maybe that taking pleasure thing isn't so rare after all.
2. D.C. United-New York -- Now these are two fan bases that don't like each other. Hard-core Red Bulls supporters sing about how much they hate D.C. ... even when the team is playing Colorado. Imagine the fireworks if these two sides were actually good at the same time.
1. Los Angeles-Chivas USA -- It has all the makings of a great rivalry: A shared building. Dislike. Atmopshere. A nickname (The SuperClasico). The one thing it hasn't had: parity. Galaxy-Goats has been one-sided affair (Chivas is 1-7-1 in MLS play vs. L.A.). But here's another sign of how important is to these teams: Amado Guevara's brief Chivas USA career ended in part because of his lackluster play in the first edition of this season's L.A. derby.
Thoughts from around the league
Enigmatic striker Carlos Ruiz may or may not get traded by FC Dallas, but the floated rumor of Nate Jaqua and Chris Albright from L.A. doesn't make much sense. Why would the Hoops need Jaqua when they already have Kenny Cooper? ... It's clear how much the Red Bulls need a healthy Claudio Reyna after their performance against Colorado. Or as Bruce Arena told the club's Web site: "Poor crossing, poor finishing, poor passing for 90 minutes." Reyna is listed as questionable again for Saturday's game with Columbus ... While Chivas USA has been getting on the board quickly (the Goats have scored twice in the first two minutes this season), Kansas City has been the master of the late goal -- a league-leading four after the 80th minute. ... Taylor Twellman is now only 19 goals away from the 100 mark. The way he's scoring, he'll get there by the end of the season. It's still early, but Twellman is on pace to score 25 goals this season and challenge Roy Lassiter's single-season record of 27 (in 32 games).
RankLW Team
New England Revolution (4-1-2)
Confetti was still flying when Twellman floored the Galaxy
New York Red Bulls (3-1-2)
Lazy Sunday: SNL skit or Red Bulls' effort versus Rapids?
Kansas City Wizards (4-2-0)
The win at BMO suddenly looks like an accomplishment
FC Dallas (3-3-1)
New arrival Pablo Ricchetti made quick impact in the back
Colorado Rapids (3-2-2)
Solid win over N.Y., but let two points get away vs. RSL
Houston Dynamo (2-3-1)
Ngwenya wasted 2 golden chances in his Dynamo debut
Chicago Fire (3-2-1)
Conceding six goals in two games a big concern for Fire
Los Angeles Galaxy (1-2-1)
Abel Xavier: MLS' funkiest hair since Carlos Valderrama
Columbus Crew (1-1-4)
Moreno, Schelotto look like they will boost Crew's attack
Toronto FC (2-4-0)
Let in nine goals in first three matches; two in past three
D.C. United (1-3-1)
Next two matches -- TFC, HOU -- will tell a lot about D.C.
Chivas USA (2-3-1)
Outscored 17-5 in nine all-time matches against Galaxy
Real Salt Lake (0-2-4)
Started back-to-back seasons with 6-game winless skids

1. Taylor Twellman
New England Revs

2. BMO Field Faithful
Toronto FC

3. Dario Sala
FC Dallas
Thursday, May 17
FC Dallas 1, Chicago 1 (ESPN2) -- Hoops are 2-1-1 on road, just 1-2-0 at home
Saturday, May 19
Toronto 1, D.C. United 1 -- TFC's third match in eight days; it's D.C.'s second in 16
New York 1, Columbus 0 -- Meager four combined goals in past five Crew-Bulls matches
New England 2, Houston 1 (FSC) -- Rematch of 2006 MLS Cup goes Revs way this time
Kansas City 2, Colorado 0 (HDNet) -- K.C. close to full strength: Marinelli, Sealy probable
Sunday, May 20
Los Angeles 3, Chivas USA 1 (TeleFutura) -- Galaxy's only league win so far vs. Chivas
Real Salt Lake 2, FC Dallas 1 -- Omen? Dallas is 0-2 on Sundays after Thursday matches

Last Week: 2-4; This season: 15-23. What can I say? I'm a glutton for punishment.
The Colorado-Real Salt Lake match marked the first time in MLS history a 1-1 result came about solely from own goals. And they were the first two of the MLS season, after none in the first 32 matches.

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