On Friday, October 14th, the Colorado Rapids will welcome Real Salt Lake to Dick's Sporting Goods Park. The match is a vital game for the Rapids, who are trying to secure a home wildcard playoff spot. Given the fact that DC United and Chicago Fire recently lost, the Rapids should have no problems qualifying with two matches remaining. However, the Rocky Mountain club desperately wants to claim a home match for the wildcard play-in game.
This matchup is also special within MLS, as it is referred to the Rocky Mountain Derby. The matchup between Colorado and RSL is not only a geographical rivalry, but also features the Rocky Mountain Cup, which is a trophy given to the supporters of the two clubs by the victor. Since RSL defeated Colorado 1-0 in Salt Lake City last April, Colorado needs to win by a margin of 2 goals to reclaim the Rocky Mountain Cup for the first time since 2006.
Recently, Colorado ended losing streaks on two fronts: MLS league play and the CONCACAF Champions League with wins against Isidro Metapan, and FC Dallas, respectively. Real Salt Lake has lost four of their past five games, with three of those matches 3-0 shutouts. Real Salt Lake will also be without the services of their captain, Kyle Beckerman. The central midfielder, who recently started in both of the United States matches this past week against Honduras and Ecuador, is serving a suspension for a straight red card he received for a head-butt on an opponent.
Real Salt Lake have already secured a playoff position a few weeks ago but have struggled in recent weeks. RSL head coach Jason Kreis recently stated he was sick of losing before a 3-0 loss to bottom-feeders Vancouver Whitecaps at the BC Place in Vancouver, British Columbia. The Whitecaps benefited from two penalties and a straight red card to Collen Warner.
Gary Smith will feature a strong starting lineup despite a must-win scenario for Colorado in the CONCACAF Champions League at the midweek against Santos Laguna in Torreon, Mexico. Smith has also reportedly had issues with the front office, particularly Rapids Technical Director Paul Bravo. However, Smith has stated that this will not distract the team from their training and focus ahead of the high-profile match.
Real Salt Lake will have approximately 250 supporters in the away section and a capacity crowd is expected at Dick's Sporting Goods Park for this Rocky Mountain clash featuring the last two MLS Cup winners. The match will be aired live on ESPN2 with kickoff at 8:30 MST.