Rocky Mountain Fever
Saturday’s match is the second in the 2015 Rocky Mountain Cup between Real Salt Lake and the Colorado Rapids. The first match ended in a scoreless draw at Rio Tinto Stadium on June 7. That match featured 32 shots, but just two shots on goal. With a little more sharpness in the final third, it easily could have been a much higher-scoring affair.
Although RSL has dominated the season series and taken home the Rocky Mountain Cup in seven of the last eight years, the all-time series has RSL with just a 12-10-10 record.
Real Salt Lake defender Chris Schuler hasn’t seen action for Real Salt Lake since the fourth match of the season. A knee injury had him sidelined since then, but he has made two appearances with Real Monarchs SLC in the USL and was on the bench for Head Coach Jeff Cassar in a 1-1 draw with Orlando City SC last week.
Now ready to go 90 minutes and available to Cassar, Schuler brings a veteran presence to a center back tandem that previously didn’t have a player over the age of 24 for all but six minutes in the last six matches. Potentially bringing back his experience alongside a rejuvenated Aaron Maund could make for a strong core to the middle of the RSL defense. In Schuler’s four starts this season, RSL went 2-0-2.
Who’s on the Left?
Cassar has options available to him all over the field, but his left back situation grew a bit perilous when Abdoulie Mansally was shown a yellow card late in the Orlando City match last week. It was his fifth caution of the season, drawing a one-match suspension for yellow-card accumulation. With Demar Phillips away on international duty with Jamaica at the 2015 CONCACAF Gold Cup, that leaves Cassar without his first two choices at left back.
Now he has options, but none is primarily a left back. Justen Glad has played there before. As has Boyd Okwuonu. Jordan Allen has experience as an outside back. Even Tony Beltran has started in that role as recently as 2012. How Cassar utilizes that position will be important in the defensive shape for the match.
Rapids Building Momentum
Twice this season, Colorado has gone three or more matches without scoring a goal across all competitions. After being shutout in the first four matches of the season, the Rapids exploded for four goals against previously unbeaten FC Dallas. Now, after three straight matches without a goal, they posted a 2-1 win over Western Conference-leading Vancouver last week. That included the first goal of the year from newly-minted Designated Player Kevin Doyle.
Like Sebastian Jaime for Real Salt Lake – who has four goals in his last five matches across all competitions – this could trigger an outpouring of goals from Doyle. That will be chief among the concerns for RSL on the defensive end.