RSL host MLS Cup champs in Rocky Mountain Cup clash

The first installment of the Rocky Mountain Cup is on offer as two of the teams with the brightest starts this season meet when Real Salt Lake play host to the Colorado Rapids at Rio Tinto Stadium. Real are the only team still with a perfect record after last week’s win at New England. The Rapids won their first three games on the trot as well, before falling at FC Dallas last Friday in a rematch of MLS Cup 2010.

REFEREE: Baldomero Toledo. SAR (bench): Peter Manikowski; JAR (opposite): Craig Lowry; 4th: Tyler Ploeger

MLS Career: 109 games; FC/gm: 25.2; Y/gm: 3.8; R: 45; pens: 43

INJURY REPORT: REAL SALT LAKE – PROBABLE: DF Tony Beltran (L hamstring tendonitis); GK Nick Rimando (R ankle bone spur); DF Robbie Russell (R calf contusion); DF Chris Schuler (R ankle sprain); DF Chris Wingert (L ankle sprain) …

COLORADO RAPIDS – OUT: FW Macoumba Kandji (L knee ACL tear); DOUBTFUL: FW Conor Casey (L hamstring strain); QUESTIONABLE: MF Pablo Mastroeni (R achilles strain); PROBABLE: GK Matt Pickens (R groin strain)

INTERNATIONAL ABSENCES: none

SUSPENDED: RSL -- Will Johnson (through April 13)

WARNINGS:

SUSPENDED NEXT YELLOW CARD: none
SUSPENDED AFTER TWO YELLOW CARDS: COL -- Conor Casey

HEAD-TO-HEAD

ALL-TIME (20 meetings): Rapids 8 wins, 22 goals … Real 6 wins, 21 goals … Ties 6 / AT SALT LAKE (10 meetings): Real 4 wins, 11 goals … Rapids 3 wins, 8 goals … Ties 3

RETURN MATCH: 10/14: Colorado Rapids vs. Real Salt Lake, 8:30 p.m. MT (ESPN2)

LAST YEAR (MLS):

9/25: RSL 1, COL 1 (Borchers 90 – Casey 36)

10/23: COL 2, RSL 2 (Cummings 16; Casey 50 – Saborio 90, 90)

  • The teams play for the Rocky Mountain Cup, awarded to the winner of the season series by supporters’ groups from both clubs.
  • Colorado won the Rocky Mountain Cup the first two years it was on offer before RSL took it in 2007, claiming the trophy in a 1-0 win in the regular season finale at Dick’s Sporting Goods Park. Real have held onto the trophy each of the last three seasons, a pair of goals from Alvaro Saborio in stoppage time sealing a dramatic 2-2 draw in the season finale.
  • Last-day results sent RSL into the MLS Cup Playoffs ahead of their Rocky Mountain rivals in back-to-back years. Real defeated Colorado 3-0, Oct. 24, 2009 at Rio Tinto Stadium, after a Yura Movsisyan goal in the 90th minute of the season finale at Dick’s Sporting Goods gave RSL a 1-1 draw in 2008. In 2007, a Robbie Findley goal gave RSL a 1-0 win and again ended the Rapids’ playoff hopes, though Real also did not qualify.
  • Coaches record: Jason Kreis v COL: P11 W4 L2 D5 … Gary Smith vs. RSL: P7 W1 L2 D4

REAL SALT LAKE

Real Salt Lake are the only team remaining in MLS with an unblemished record, returning to league play with a 2-0 victory against the New England Revolution on Saturday evening at Gillette Stadium. RSL is tied atop the Western Conference with Colorado with 9 points from 3 matches.

LAST MATCH

  • Real took the lead after 27 minutes. Collen Warner's service from the left corner located Chris Schuler's powerful near-post run and the second-year defender headed home his first MLS goal.
  • Warner once again featured prominently to double the RSL lead two minutes into the second half. The secondyear midfielder played a ball behind the New England line for Paulo Junior, who collected and slotted home at the near post for his second goal of the campaign.
  • Coming off the midweek heroics in Costa Rica, RSL coach Jason Kreis kept just two regulars in his starting team, with Robbie Russell and Will Johnson maintaining their places.
  • REAL SALT LAKE (4-1-3-2): Kyle Reynish – Robbie Russell, Rauwshan McKenzie, Chris Schuler, Tony Beltran - Jean Alexandre (Kyle Beckerman 63) - Ned Grabavoy, Collen Warner (Luis Gil 82), Will Johnson (sent off 86) - Paulo Junior, Arturo Alvarez.

TEAM NEWS

  • Kreis said he had decided on the makeup of his side about two weeks earlier, coming off the 2-1 loss in CONCACAF Champions League play at midweek at Deportivo Saprissa that still sealed advancement, and with a second consecutive game on an artificial surface.
  • “We put the challenge on them to rise to this occasion - to step out and step up and make a statement for themselves. Not only for us, but for everybody in the league of what kind of players they are,” Kreis said. “We see them every single day at training, and we have a whole lot of belief in them, but a lot of people don’t see those players enough. I think they made a big statement for themselves and for our club tonight.”
  • One of the only two players who played again in New England, Will Johnson will now have the Colorado match off after he was sent off late in the game in New England, one of three red cards on the night.
  • “It was very disappointing. Will’s a hugely important piece for us in the midfield with the amount of ground he covers and the work rate that he has,” Kreis said. “We will miss him on Wednesday night. There’s no doubt about it, but I think there enough guys out there that have shown they’re quite capable.”
  • Real extended their league unbeaten streak to 17 games, just two behind the MLS record of 19, set by FC Dallas last year and the Columbus Crew over the end of 2004 and the first two games of 2005.
  • The current unbeaten streak also includes a nine-match road undefeated run (3-0-6) that is tied for the secondlongest in MLS history, along with the 2004 Columbus Crew and 2007-08 Chicago Fire.
  • It was the first MLS victory as starting goalkeeper for Kyle Reynish, after recording draws in his first three starts. It was his second league shutout, after backstopping a scoreless draw last Sept. 9 at Seattle.
  • “To be honest, I didn’t feel like I had to do quite as much as I have in some other games. Over four years now I’ve been waiting to get it, so I think [I] appreciate it a little more than some other guys who maybe get it earlier in their careers,” Reynish said.
  • Chris Schuler made his second career league start on First Kick, in the 1-0 win at San Jose. His second start of 2011 came in New England – and he scored his first MLS goal. “It feels good to get the result. It feels good to get on the board, definitely. I’m a bigger guy and it’s kind of expected. It’s good to come through,” he said.
  • Collen Warner recorded his first two assists in 15 league appearances after being selected in the 2010 MLS SuperDraft. He did have a goal and an assist against Mexico’s Cruz Azul in the CONCACAF Champions League last October.

COLORADO RAPIDS

The Colorado Rapids fell for the first time in 2011 in a rematch of MLS Cup 2010, falling 3-0 to FC Dallas on Friday evening at Pizza Hut Park. The Rapids have 9 points from 4 games and are tied atop the Western Conference with Real Salt Lake.

LAST MATCH

  • FC Dallas took a deserved lead 26 minutes into the match. Marvin Chavez hooked a partially cleared corner back into the goalmouth, and it fell for defender Ugo Ihemelu to prod home from close range.
  • The home side doubled the lead in the 40th minute. Fabian Castillo threaded a pass through the Rapids backline and into the path of a streaking David Ferreira, who then finished with a cheeky chip to the right of goalkeeper Matt Pickens.
  • Just 25 seconds into the second half, FCD captain Daniel Hernandez one-timed a pass through the Rapids defense to Eric Avila, who then launched a rolling cross across the six-yard box toward a wide-open Ferreira. The Colombian finished it off with a sliding tap-in for his second goal of the match.
  • Rapids head coach Gary Smith made three changes to the team that defeated D.C. United 3-1 at Dick’s Sporting Goods Park. Sanna Nyassi and Joseph Nane came into the midfield for Brian Mullan and Pablo Mastroeni, and Omar Cummings replaced Conor Casey in attack.
  • COLORADO RAPIDS (4-4-2): Matt Pickens - Kosuke Kimura, Marvell Wynne, Drew Moor, Anthony Wallace (Tyrone Marshall 63) - Sanna Nyassi (Brian Mullan 46), Joseph Nane, Jeff Larentowicz, Jamie Smith - Omar Cummings, Caleb Folan (Quincy Amarikwa 61),

TEAM NEWS

  • The Rapids came into the Dallas match as one of two teams remaining with perfect records on the season. They’ll now take on the last with the visit to Real Salt Lake.
  • That’s what’s disappointing is we know we’re a better team than that. Just from the get-go, we didn’t have it. We didn’t show what we really had,” midfielder Jeff Larentowicz said. “Dallas is a team that is good attacking and they can exploit things when you’re not showing your best and they did tonight.”
  • The Rapids were without both Conor Casey, forced to leave the 4-1 win vs. D.C. United the week before with a hamstring injury, and influential midfielder Pablo Mastroeni, who failed a pregame fitness test for a calf injury.
  • “Sometimes, you just can’t put your finger on it,” Rapids coach Gary Smith said. “We have to be able to deal better with the adversities that will be thrown at us. We didn’t start particularly well and we weren’t threatening enough going forward until those last 20 minutes.”
  • Smith gave the first Rapids starts to youngsters Sanna Nyassi, obtained in the offseason from Seattle, and Joseph Nane, acquired from Toronto FC.
  • “I liked Joseph’s industry but, technically, like a lot of the players tonight, he was below the standard he is capable of,” Smith said. “It was a tough night for Sanna and life was made very difficult for him given where we were playing in that first half.”
  • Smith said Mastroeni’s chances of playing against Real Salt Lake are “tight.” He added the chances of fullback Anthony Wallace playing, who was forced off in the 63rd minute against FC Dallas with a calf injury, are “slim.”
  • Smith called the two-game stretch at FC Dallas – the rematch of last year’s MLS Cup Final – and the visit to Real Salt Lake, where the Rapids have endured so much heartache over the last few seasons, as a test of character for his club.
  • “The goals were at very nice times for (FC Dallas),” Smith said. “They played quite well and were clearly up for it and we were well below par. It was a bad day at the office.”