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Do Columbus Crew SC and the Seattle Sounders Constitute as Rivals?

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This game seems to mean something in the stands, but how does it feel on the field?

Greg Bartram-USA TODAY Sports

The Seattle Sounders. To Columbus Crew SC fans, the name brings a bitter taste to their mouths.

Despite having won the last two meetings over the Sounders, there's a dislike for the club and its fan base when the Black & Gold supporters hear about the Rave Green.

"I think Seattle is a big club by MLS standards so of course there is a little extra there," Crew SC head coach Gregg Berhalter told Massive Report this week. "We're a very traditional club, they're a newer generation club, and there is a conflict between the fans but I think that's healthy for the sport."

For many fans, that is the case. Crew SC is a proud original member of Major League Soccer and is public about being the league's first club. The Sounders meanwhile began play in MLS in 2009 and there's a perception around Columbus that, to quote one Black & Gold fan, "Seattle thinks they invented soccer."

Needless to say, there's a bit of a rivalry between the fan bases, but does that spill over on the field? Do the players and staff feel that in the game, despite the teams only meeting once every season and never having faced each other in the MLS Cup Playoffs?

I asked Berhalter what he thinks of when he hears "Seattle Sounders" and his answer didn't indicate that of a rivalry on the field.

"Green comes to mind," he said. "Stadium. Fans. Those types of things."

When asked the same question, Columbus winger Ethan Finlay went a little more in depth with his thoughts of the Pacific Northwest club.

"One of 20 teams in this league," he began. "There's obviously some history with some front office stuff and some coaching things and obviously we have some former players that are there, but a lot of that is a long time ago.

"We've had their number a little bit recently, especially beating them at home in dramatic fashion two years ago. That's probably something that still has a bad taste in their mouths and we're well aware of that."

Sounds like something could be building there.

Saturday's contest will be only the 11th all-time MLS meeting between the two clubs in seven seasons, so it's hard to declare the Sounders a Crew SC rival, but to many fans, this game is one they look forward to every year. While the players are focused on taking it one game at a time, they are aware of this fact and want to bring home a win for their supporters.

"I don't want to say that there's more emphasis than any other game on this one in particular, especially because we're so early on in the season, but you're going to play a really good team in a really tough place to play that has a lot of quality on the field," Finlay said. "There's always going to be some extra addeds to every matchup and this one just happens to be our fan base, our former players."

For a league that likes to push rivalries on fans regularly, maybe MLS should take a look at featuring games between Seattle and Columbus. It's not a regional rivalry and there's no trophy on the line, but taking a look back at the two meetings since Berhalter took over Crew SC show exciting, open, dramatic games that fans like to see.

Those type of games are where Berhalter sees the birth of rivalries.

"[It's] competition," he said. "I remember when I was in L.A. and we played Seattle. It didn't start off like it was and then all of a sudden over time, you have two teams that are performing well and every time they play each other it's a big game and it becomes good."

That has been the case between these two sides, but this meeting sees both teams below the playoff line early in the season. Crew SC enters the match on the back of its first two wins of the year, but Seattle has struggled to find its offense in 2016 after the loss of forward Obafemi Martins.

Nonetheless, Berhalter expects another exciting affair.

"I like that attacking group. It's a top group in the league so it's going to be fun. Good challenge for us," the head coach said.

"I think they have a bright future in Jordan Morris. He looks like a quality player. He's already gotten off the mark a couple times. With Clint, a top talent in this league."

With no Brad Evans (suspended) in the middle of the Seattle defense, Crew SC will look to get one of the league's best attacks from a season ago going after a slow start to the year.

While it doesn't have the history or geographic logic of some rivalries, this game does mean something. These are two teams expected to contend for an MLS Cup this season that have underachieved early. A win in this match could get either side back on the right track and bring a lot of pride back to their fans.