SANDY, Utah – A year ago, Real Salt Lake were oh so close to winning three trophies. On Saturday, the team can reclaim one lost piece of hardware.
A win in Colorado will return the Rocky Mountain Cup to Rio Tinto Stadium, where it resided for six years before the Rapids won it in 2013 – a year in which RSL also finished runners up in MLS Cup and the US Open Cup.
“We do want to bring that Rocky Mountain trophy back here – back home,” RSL head coach Jeff Cassar told reporters.
The symbol of supremacy between the two rivals is awarded annually to the team that gets the better of the head-to-head, regular-season competition.
Since the competition began in 2005, the year RSL joined the league, the Rapids won it the first two years. RSL took it for six consecutive seasons before surrendering it last year by the slimmest of margins – one goal (the teams tied twice, sandwiched on either side of a 1-0 Colorado win).
Despite one more matchup remaining between the two teams after Saturday, a Claret-and-Cobalt win Saturday at Dick’s Sporting Goods Park would give them the trophy regardless of the outcome of the series finale on Sept. 9 in Utah. RSL beat the Rapids 2-1 on May 17 in the first matchup of 2014.
And it's not just the fans of the two teams who look forward to RSL-Rapids games.
“I think we have a great rivalry with them,” RSL defender Nat Borchers told reporters. “They have a fantastic team and have been playing well.”
Unlike some past seasons, Saturday's game also will have definite impact on the Western Conference standings. RSL (8-4-9, 33 points) are in second place, just ahead of Colorado (8-7-6, 30 points), in a crowded field with just five points separating the five teams in second through seventh place.
“Colorado is going to be a tough game,” said RSL midfielder Javier Morales. “We have to win because we need three points, and we have to go there and take it to them to win it.”
Both teams are headed into the game after midweek disappointments. After taking a 1-0 first-half lead at home over New York, RSL gave up a second-half goal and had to settle for a draw.
It was the seventh time this season Salt Lake have surrendered a lead and dropped points (six ties and a loss).
And the Rapids are returning home after suffering a 3-0 loss at New England on Wednesday.
RSL forward Robbie Findley told reporters that the squad needs to “maybe just focus on what we need to do as a team, and not so much them. I feel like a lot of the teams play us the same way. They know what we do, so maybe we need to focus more on our performance.”