Real Salt Lake and the Colorado Rapids will kick off the 2014 Rocky Mountain Cup on Saturday, with the Claret-and-Cobalt hosting the rival Rapids at 7:30 p.m. MT at Rio Tinto Stadium.
Here are a few storylines to watch ahead of the match:
How will RSL fare in first match without Beckerman, Rimando and Saborio?
We all knew it was coming, but that doesn’t mean that the absences of RSL Captain Kyle Beckerman, goalkeeper Nick Rimando and forward Alvaro Saborio due to World Cup duty will be any easier for the Claret-and-Cobalt to deal with this weekend. Saturday’s match will be RSL’s first without the trio, which departed on Wednesday for pre-World Cup camps with their national teams. Expect Jeff Attinella to fill-in for Rimando, Cole Grossman to step-in for Beckerman and either Devon Sandoval or Olmes Garcia to start for Saborio on Saturday.
Can RSL get off to a good start as it looks to reclaim the Rocky Mountain Cup?
Prior to 2013, the last time RSL lost a Rocky Mountain Cup, Rio Tinto Stadium hadn’t opened, a band called Hinder was near the top of the charts and Kyle Beckerman and Chris Wingert were members of the Rapids. 2006: Heady days. Real Salt Lake ripped off a run of six-straight Rocky Mountain Cups following that year, winning the trophy every year from 2007-2012. Colorado won the trophy back last year, with RSL posting a 0-1-2 record to cede the trophy to the east side of the Rockies. The Claret-and-Cobalt will want to keep the Cup’s stay in Colorado short, and can get off to a great start in the 2014 RMC with a win on Saturday.
Will home dominance continue in Rocky Mountain Cup?
The home team has historically dominated in Rocky Mountain Cup play, posting a 14-5-9 record over the visiting team in 28 RMC games. That dominance has been even more pronounced in recent years, with the home team not losing a game in the last 14 Rocky Mountain Cup matches, a streak that dates all the way back to RSL’s 1-0 win at Colorado on Oct. 20, 2007.
Battle of first-year head coaches
Saturday’s match will pit two first-year coaches against each other in RSL’s Jeff Cassar and Colorado’s Pablo Mastroeni. Cassar has gotten his career off to a sparkling start, posting an unbeaten 5-0-5 record through his first 10 games as Claret-and-Cobalt manager. That’s the second-longest unbeaten run to start a MLS coaching career in league history. Mastroeni’s start has been solid, if not as strong, with the former U.S. Men’s National Team stalwart guiding the Rapids to a 4-3-3 mark through its first 10 matches.