Preview: Rocky Mountain rivals look to stay hot

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REAL SALT LAKE vs COLORADO RAPIDS
RIO TINTO STADIUM, Sandy, Utah
April 7, 2012 (WEEK 5, MLS Game #43)
9 p.m. ET (KUCW-30; Altitude)

Real Salt Lake and the Colorado Rapids renew their Rocky Mountain Cup rivalry for 2012 when the clubs meet for the first time this season at Rio Tinto Stadium. Real moved to the top of the Western Conference at midweek, following their 1-0 victory against the expansion Montreal Impact. The Rapids rebounded from their only loss of the year last weekend, returning home for a 2-0 win against the Chicago Fire.

REFEREE: Jair Marrufo. SAR (bench): Eric Boria; JAR (opposite): C.J. Morgante; 4th: Fotis Bazakos
MLS Career: 128 games; FC/gm: 24.4; Y/gm: 3.2; R: 29; pens: 41

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INJURY REPORT

  • REAL SALT LAKE - DOUBTFUL: FW Cody Arnoux (L adductor strain), MF Enzo Martinez (lower back spasms), MF Nico Muñiz (R MCL sprain)
  • COLORADO RAPIDS - OUT: MF Jamie Smith (R ACL tear); DF Anthony Wallace (L Achilles tear); MF Pablo Mastroeni (headaches); DOUBTFUL: FW Conor Casey (L Achilles tear)

INTERNATIONAL ABSENCES: none

SUSPENDED: none

HEAD-TO-HEAD

ALL-TIME (22 meetings): Real 7 wins, 22 goals ... Rapids 8 wins, 22 goals ... Ties 7
AT SALT LAKE (11 meetings): Real 5 wins, 12 goals ... Rapids 3 wins, 8 goals ... Ties 3
RETURN MATCHES: 7/21: Real Salt Lake vs. Colorado Rapids, 8 p.m. MT; 8/4: Colorado Rapids vs. Real Salt Lake, 7 p.m. MT

LAST YEAR (MLS):

4/13: RSL 1, COL 0 (Espindola 90)
10/14: COL 0, RSL 0

  • RSL has a six-game unbeaten streak alive vs. Colorado. Since a 2-0 Rapids win May 2, 2009, Real have won twice, with four draws.
  • Real haven't won in Commerce City since 2007, a 1-0 victory at Dick's Sporting Goods Park in the season's final game. The Rapids have won two of their last five home games since, with three draws.
  • The Rocky Mountain Cup rivalry has lived up to its billing in past seasons, as last-day results sent RSL into the MLS Cup Playoffs ahead of their Rocky Mountain rivals in 2008 (a last-minute RSL goal for a 1-1 tie) and 2009 (a 3-0 Real win). In 2007, an RSL win also ended the Rapids' playoff hopes, though Real also did not qualify.
  • Coaches record: Jason Kreis vs. COL: P13 W5 L2 D6 ... Oscar Pareja vs. RSL: first game

REAL SALT LAKE

Real Salt Lake returned home and regained their winning form, hanging on for a 1-0 win against the Montreal Impact on Wednesday night at Rio Tinto Stadium. Real now lead the Western Conference with 12 points from 5 games.

WATCH: Anatomy of a Goal - Kyle Beckerman vs POR

LAST MATCH

  • The game's lone goal came after a flurry of Real chances in the box in the 12th minute. Impact striker Justin Braun handled the ball in the area when defending a set piece, giving referee Ricardo Salazar no choice but to point to the spot.
  • Paulo Junior confidently stepped up and slotted a shot to the left of Donovan Ricketts who guessed correctly but couldn't reach the shot. It was his first goal of the year, and first since April 9, 2011.
  • RSL head coach Jason Kreis made five changes to the team that came back for a 3-2 win against the Portland Timbers at Jeld-Wen Field. Into the team came defenders Terakazu Tanaka and Chris Schuler, midfielders Will Johnson and Jonny Steele, and striker Fabian Espindola, replacing Nat Borchers, Chris Wingert, Ned Grabavoy, Javier Morales and Alvaro Saborio.
  • REAL SALT LAKE (4-3-1-2): Nick Rimando - Terakazu Tanaka, Chris Schuler, Jamison Olave, Tony Beltran -Will Johnson, Kyle Beckerman, Jonny Steele (Ned Grabavoy 63) - Luis Gil (Javier Morales 64) - Paulo Junior (Alvaro Saborio 77), Fabian Espindola.

TEAM NEWS

  • The win was the fourth in five matches for Real Salt Lake, their second in three games at Rio Tinto Stadium in a span of four of five at home.
  • "I'm just displeased with the performance. It's the first game this year that I can say that honestly," said RSL head coach Jason Kreis. "In the second half we came out and did a much better job. We probably should have scored a goal in the first 15 minutes (of the second half), but unfortunately we didn't. Lots of things to be displeased about and only one to be pleased with, which is the three points."
  • Kreis gave a chance to test his squad depth, making five changes in the team. Will Johnson was making his first appearance in the first XI, after his season debut came in Portland. Johnson, who played 90 minutes, missed the entire preseason with an adductor strain that required surgery.
  • "We gave the ball away on too many passes," said Johnson. "I think it was all over the field. We just gave the ball away, and then you start chasing, and you get more tired. And then as the game goes along we don't bury our chances and we make a night that could have been a lot of fun very difficult."
  • Jonny Steele also made his first MLS start, playing a wide midfield role opposite Johnson, with Luis Gil returned to the spot behind the front two.
  • "I think tactically in the first half we didn't find the spaces to exploit. I didn't think our balance in the midfield was good, which meant we didn't have options," Kreis said. "When we had the ball we kept trying to squeeze things into players that were already marked, and we gave the ball away a lot. We could have and should have been punished for that."
  • Terukasu Tanaka made his MLS debut, playing 90 minutes at right back with Tony Beltran shifting to the left.
  • Paulo Junior maintained his place and scored his first goal of the season, his first in an RSL uniform in nearly a year.
  • "He was actually one of the few players that was really bright on the ball in the first half, making some things happen every time he touched it. He worked really, really hard, and I am pleased with his wanting to take the penalty kick," Kreis said.
  • There were some down points to come out of the match, as both Ned Grabavoy and Javier Morales picked up injuries in their substitute appearances. Grabavoy told the coaching staff he played the final 20 minutes with what he thought was a broken rib, and Morales suffered an apparent hamstring injury.

COLORADO RAPIDS

The Colorado Rapids returned home and resumed their winning ways, knocking off the Chicago Fire 2-0 on Sunday afternoon at Dick's Sporting Goods Park. The Rapids are in a three-way tie for the lead in the Western Conference with 9 points from 6 games.

WATCH: Cummings talks game-winning goal

LAST MATCH

  • The Rapids opened the scoring in the 58th minute. Newcomer Mart"n Rivero placed a perfect long ball through to the streaking Brian Mullan down the right flank, and he then centered to a wide-open Cummings. The Jamaican then coolly slotted home for his second goal of the season.
  • The Rapids added an insurance goal in the second minute of second-half stoppage time through Kamani Hill. The forward collected a pass from Wells Thompson and fired a shot at Paolo Tornaghi, which rebounded straight back to the newly acquired Hill, who then sent a powerful finish to the back of the net from the rebound.
  • Rapids head coach Oscar Pareja made two changes to the team that fell 4-1 to the New York Red Bulls at Red Bull Arena. Jeff Larentowicz returned from suspension and Martin Rivero made his debut, in place of Wells Thompson and Ross LaBauex.
  • COLORADO RAPIDS (4-2-3-1): Matt Pickens - Kosuke Kimura, Marvell Wynne, Drew Moor, Luis Zapata - Jaime Castrillon (Kamani Hill 82), Jeff Larentowicz - Brian Mullan, Martin Rivero (Tyrone Marshall 87), Tony Cascio (Wells Thompson 66) - Omar Cummings.

TEAM NEWS

  • Making his league debut after his international transfer certificate was finally obtained, Mart"n Rivero made his first MLS appearance - and set up the opening goal.
  • "Having Martín today was good and it was his first game, and he doesn't know the league and probably in the first half he missed a little bit of the rhythm," said Rapids head coach Oscar Pareja. "But I thought in the second half, he found it and started making everyone play better. I'm pleased with him."
  • Adding Rivero to the midfield was bolstered by the return of Jeff Larentowicz from suspension. "The last couple of weeks we've struggled knowing if players are going to be available or not," Pareja said. "It's refreshing for the coaching staff now. Mart"n is clear and Jeff is back, so we're good."
  • Just two days after being acquired by the club through an MLS lottery, Kamani Hill made his MLS debut as an 82nd-minute substitute, and scored his first league goal.
  • "[It's been] a good whirlwind," Hill said. "I'm trying to take it in stride and hopefully use it to focus and stay motivated and keep working harder in the weeks to come, because it's a long season."
  • The Rapids received a blow when the club announced captain and midfielder Pablo Mastroeni will be out for a minimum of six weeks more with the re-occurrence of post-concussion symptoms. Last October, a collision with Real Salt Lake defender J·mison Olave forced Mastroeni to miss the rest of the regular season and the MLS Cup Playoffs; he also took a blow to the head in the season opener that forced him off late in the match. "It's the real deal," Mastroeni said.
  • After scoring two goals in the first three games to start the 2011 season, Omar Cummings scored just once over the remainder of the campaign, a goal against Columbus on Aug. 5 the only tally in the next 24 league games (he also scored in the MLS Cup Playoffs, in the wild-card match vs. Columbus). Cummings has now scored in back-to-back games this season.
  • "As a forward, you always feel pressure to get the ball in the back of the net," Cummings said. "That is your main job description. To see them going in in any way, you'll take it."