Backs against the wall, Real Salt Lake know nothing less than a win will do in Colorado
SANDY, Utah — Real Salt Lake know they have their work cut out for themselves if they are going to win the Rocky Mountain Cup for the seventh consecutive year.
RSL face the Colorado Rapids for the third and final time this season Saturday night (8:30 pm ET; MLS Live) at Dick's Sporting Goods Park trailing in the season series. Colorado own a win and a draw already, so to keep the hardware, the Claret-and-Cobalt must do something they have only done twice in franchise history: post a victory in Colorado.
"I think that with the Rocky Mountain Cup at stake this weekend, I think it is going to be a huge challenge for us to get a win in Denver finally," said defender and former Rapid Nat Borchers. "I don't think we've done it yet — at least since I've been on this team. It is a huge challenge, a huge opportunity for us."
Borchers recalls correctly. The last time RSL won at Colorado was in 2007 in the season finale, when they posted a 1-0 victory and the season before the veteran joined the club. The only other win at the Rapids came in 2006, a 4-1 domination.
Despite having their backs against the wall, there are a couple of things in RSL's favor. First, they need only to win to retain the Cup – a one-goal win of any scoreline would do it.
Second is simple: road form. RSL are 5-5-1 away from Rio Tinto Stadium this year, and just hung three goals on the Red Bulls in New Jersey.
Of course they gave up four in that game, so not everything is bouncing their way. Getting back to the defensive principles that saw them post eight games unbeaten recently is priority No. 1.
"It is a little bit special because they are rivals, but we try to play every game the same way," midfielder Javier Morales said after training earlier in the week. "When we go to New York, we try to win. When we go to Dallas, we try to win. Now, when we go to Colorado, we play to win."
If there weren't already enough pressure facing Colorado, one added fact this week is that the Rapids are currently in a tie with Portland for second place in the Western Conference with 34 points, only three points back of top-of-the-table RSL.
"Well it is going to be a big one," said defender Lovel Palmer. "For me, it is more than just the Cup. Colorado is second behind us [in the Western Conference], that makes it even twice as big. But with the rivalry, our fans need to have their bragging rights."