Colorado Rapids hope return of several starters will boost quest to retain Rocky Mountain Cup

Deshorn Brown

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USA Today Sports

COMMERCE CITY, Colo. – The Colorado Rapids could welcome back key figures Deshorn Brown, José Mari and Vicente Sanchez to action for their all-important Saturday matchup against arch-rivals Real Salt Lake (9 pm ET, MLS Live).

Fresh off their worst performance of the season in a 3-0 drubbing on Wednesday night at the hands of the New England Revolution, the Rapids now happily head home for a critical Rocky Mountain Cup clash with their Rocky Mountain Cup rivals.

A Rapids loss, and the Cup will cross the Rockies back to Utah. A win on Saturday, and Colorado would only need a draw on September 19 at Rio Tinto Stadium to re-claim the Cup, which they won last year for the first time since 2006.

“Even coming off of a 3-0 loss makes this game more meaningful to come back with the right mindset,” Rapids head coach Pablo Mastroeni told MLSsoccer.com after practice on Friday. “For me, it’s making sure that we as a staff create the right environment for these guys to be motivated, prepared and ready to take on a great rival.”

Colorado lost at the Rio Tinto by a 2-1 scoreline in May, nearly storming back from a 2-0 second half deficit to grab the tie. But this time around, the Rapids know they need three points to keep their hopes of retaining the Cup alive.

“This time of the year, this game is extremely important, but I don’t think we’re scared by that,” midfielder Dillon Powers told MLSsoccer.com on Friday. “We’re really getting up for it.”

Additional reinforcements could help the Rapids’ quest for hardware significantly. Colorado looked lost from the opening whistle on Wednesday, particularly in the midfield, where chief distributor José Mari looks set to return from a sprained ankle that kept him out of action for all of July. Up top, Brown’s seven goals lead the club, and second-leading scorer Sanchez should also return to the 11 after coming off the bench midweek for rest purposes.

Despite defender Shane O’Neill's (knee) absence, overall it looks like the Rapids could be getting healthy at just the right time ahead of the right game.

“We’ll talk to [José Mari and Brown] and see how they wake up [Saturday] morning,” Mastroeni said. “Just making sure the risks outweigh putting them on the field.”

Chris Bianchi covers the Colorado Rapids for MLSsoccer.com.