LEHI, Utah – The Rocky Mountain rivalry resumes on Saturday night in Commerce City, Colo., at Dick’s Sporting Goods Park, and the Rapids own a two-game advantage (8-6-5) all-time in a series that stretches back to the 2005 season.
However, Real Salt Lake have had the last laugh over the last three seasons as they’ve managed to knock their West foes out of the playoffs in the final game of each of the last three seasons.
“It’s going to be a really high-spirited affair," RSL head coach Jason Kreis said. "Both teams don’t have a lot of love lost for each other."
Interestingly, Kyle Beckerman has been on the winning side of the battle for all five years it has been around.
Beckerman has been perhaps the central figure of this rivalry. He was traded from Colorado to Salt Lake in 2007 for midfielder Mehdi Ballouchy in what many fans view as the most important trade in the history of the team.
He has played in 18 of the 19 Rocky Mountain Cup matches and holds a 10-4-4 personal record.
Beckerman's career has flourished with RSL, whereas at Colorado, he often found himself in the shadow of US national team holding midfielder Pablo Mastroeni. But he is just one of three current RSL players that have ties to the Rapids.
[inline_node:321092]Central defender Nat Borchers, a Colorado native, played for the Rapids before heading off to Europe for a couple of years in 2006. Upon coming back to MLS, he made contact with Real Salt Lake largely because of a relationship he had with RSL assistant Robin Fraser, whom he played alongside in Colorado.
Chris Wingert left Colorado for RSL in 2007 after seeing only 16 appearances during his two seasons with the Rapids, but has found a home in Salt Lake where there was a void at fullback.
This version of the Rocky Mountain season finale will not feature a playoff berth on the line. Instead, this one is about playoff seeding, with Real Salt Lake vying for both the top spot in the West and the league's Supporters' Shield. RSL trail the Galaxy, who play Sunday, by a single point in the standings but hold a superior goal difference and will clinch the Shield should the two sides finish the regular season level.
Colorado will be loioking to move up the ladder from their current eighth spot; they could potentially move all the way up to sixth.
"It’s an extremely good rivalry in this league, and so I think it’s going to be a physical affair," Kreis said. "I think both teams are going to throw things at it to win. I don’t think either team’s going to be content with a draw.”
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