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San Jose Earthquakes versus Real Salt Lake preview: Three questions with RSL Soapbox

The Rio Tinto faithful will be out in full force as the San Jose Earthquakes and Real Salt Lake battle for the top spot in the MLS Western Conference.
The Rio Tinto faithful will be out in full force as the San Jose Earthquakes and Real Salt Lake battle for the top spot in the MLS Western Conference.

The San Jose Earthquakes are riding high after earning an emotional comeback victory at the Colorado Rapids and enter the second of two Rocky Mountain matches with a chance to take over the top spot in the MLS Western Conference with a victory. Meanwhile, Real Salt Lake is coming off a devastating loss to the Los Angeles Galaxy last Wednesday and will be looking to right the ship against the visiting Earthquakes. Also, RSL likely still feels the sting of an early season loss at Buck Shaw Stadium, and will be looking to hold serve at Rio Tinto Stadium later tonight

Quake, Rattle, and Goal caught up with SBNation’s Real Salt Lake blog, the RSL Soapbox, to find out a bit more about the Earthquakes next opponent is this issue of "The Three Questions."

Quake, Rattle and Goal: MLS and Commissioner Don Garber have given a great deal of lip service to the notion that rivalries are what makes for a compelling league, going so far as to encourage clubs to hype up their so called rivals through marketing campaigns and the like. However, true rivalries can't be manufactured solely in the stands, rather, they must come about from the players as well. San Jose and Salt Lake have over the last couple seasons been involved in some often controversial moments on the field, with coaches and players openly expressing their frustrations surrounding the events. Earthquakes coaches and players have acknowledged that they have had Saturday's match against Real Salt Lake on their mind for some time now, especially given the results of their last visit to Rio Tinto Stadium. Are RSL coaches and players also looking at this match as something more than just a run-of-the-mill regular season MLS affair?

RSL Soapbox: I think that rivalry matches are huge for the fans of MLS, it adds an emotional intensity to the matches, I don’t believe that the league can create rivalries, and I don’t believe they are always based on geography either. I believe two things create a great rivalry, it has to start on the pitch with players who pick up the level of their game against rival teams. Often that is built around a specific incident or incidents; sometimes it builds over years of just intense and hard fought matches.

I think both of those criteria are now in place between San Jose and RSL, with this edition of the Quakes it is a 5-4-5 edge for RSL, but that is about as evenly matched as two teams can be and over the last couple years it has been some fairly intense matches. Then add in the first match between the two sides this year, with the cards, the late goals, the Lenhart, and it seems to me that this is a budding rivalry on the pitch, the question is beyond some hate for Steven Lenhart will this rivalry catch on with the fans? I think it probably already has, but we should find out more on Saturday.

More questions after the jump...

QRG: One place where animosity has not been fostered among opposing players is in the friendship forged between Kyle Beckerman and Chris Wondolowski during their stints together with the U.S. men's national team. Wondolowski spoke earlier this week about how the two MLS players spent a good amount of time together absorbing the information and techniques taught by head coach Jurgen Klinsman and his training staff. How has the USMNT experience benefited Beckerman, and for that matter Nick Rimando too, and how has that helped out RSL?

RSLS: I think it has been huge for Kyle and for Nick, we know that the game moves faster at each level that you move up so for them to be practicing and playing at a faster level allows them to improve their skills and hopefully bring those things back to their teammates. I think most obvious has been the way Kyle has come back from his time with the national team, his passes seem a bit quicker, even more accurate, and his positioning seems to be a bit more aggressive since his return. I also think the opportunity to play with so many different style of players has probably really helped out Kyle who has been dealing with some lineup changes at RSL of both players and positions of players.

For Nick it is probably harder to see the changes or any improvement, since those thing that keepers would adjust to are directly related to situations on the pitch and what players they are working with. The relationships Nick has with our defenders is one that he has built over years, I think for him it is about learning any new techniques in training that can help him and our other keepers out.

QRG: Rio Tinto faithful cannot be feeling all that great right now, what with a shocking loss to the Minnesota Stars in U.S. Open Cup play and a demoralizing midweek loss to the Los Angeles Galaxy just days ago. The team still sits atop the Western Conference standings, but are supporters fearing that not all is well with head coach Jason Kreis' team right now?

RSLS: I think the loss to Minnesota came as a bit of a surprise but more because of the way our defense played than anything else, we had a number of guys who simply had very few minutes playing together up top and in the midfield but the defense should have been rock steady, now some believe that the issues may have been caused by an injury that Jamison Olave has had issues with for the last month or so, or simply a lack of focus and feeling that they could play at less than 100% and still get a result. While many fans were upset by the result, I don’t think it caused many to worry.

Wednesday on the other hand is one that really makes me wonder. We have seen teams have a bad night before, it happens to everyone and often a player or two will have a bad night but when the team started off so well with the quick two goals, it seemed as everyone was focused and ready for another big night against LA. Then a mistake, a very rare bad back pass by Tony Beltran and there was Landon Donovan ready to accept the gift and make RSL pay. It was as if that one mistake before the half was up, simply took the wind out of RSL’s sails and damaged their confidence in a way I haven’t seen before. When I saw that Olave was again taken out of the match, I wondered if he had said he was more fit than he was, and that if his fitness actually played a larger role in the match than one would have expected.

So I think a number of fans left the stadium scratching their heads, but in the end they got home and looked at the standing and realized that we were still in first place. It also probably lit a fire under the entire RSL family for Saturday, knowing that this match has huge implications on the standings and wanting a bit of revenge for what happened earlier this year.

QRG: And for fun, the bonus question: On television broadcasts, the chant "Believe" is clearly audible. Give us a peak behind the curtain. How much of that is the fans in the stadium actually singing, and how much of that is enhanced through the stadium soundworks?

RSLS: A good question, so the team plays the song via the PA before the match, at halftime and after goals, but other than that they aren’t allowed to play any music. Each time it is played the fans usually start chanting it as well, but then there are the real moments that give me goosebumps. When the fans simply start in one section singing it, and then there are a couple hundred singing, and all of a sudden you have thousands of fans singing the chant and it simply echos around the stadium. We have seen it in the past with other chants, but never have I seen it happen as often or as loud as what we have started to see this year with Believe. On Wednesday what you heard late in the match, over the voices of the announce team was in fact nothing but the fans at Rio Tinto trying to help their team come back and it was a proud moment for me as a fan.

For a look at The Three Questions from the Real Salt Lake perspective, be sure to visit RSL Soapbox.