SANDY, Utah – The history between Real Salt Lake and their Rocky Mountain rivals Colorado Rapids is undoubtedly deeper than their history with any other team.
And for three players in particular, the memories hold even more weight considering Nat Borchers, Chris Wingert and Kyle Beckerman – now RSL mainstays – all spent time playing with the team's eastern neighbors.
"We won some big matches there," said Wingert, who played in Colorado in 2006 and part of 2007, of his time with the rivals. "We went to the Western Conference final, at least once, and we won down in Dallas to beat them when they were the top seed, so that was probably my best memory. … Opening [Dick's Sporting Goods Park] was pretty cool, so I have some good memories."
Beckerman, who was a Rapid from 2002 until being traded to Salt Lake midseason of 2007, also said Colorado's playoff win over Dallas back in '06 was his fondest recollection from his time there. Borchers recalled a different game from his time, 2003-05, with the club.
"It kind of sums up our team, but we played a game against LA where we went down two men in the first half, and we were even to score a goal and keep the shutout," said Borchers, recalling a matchup from way back in 2003. "That just kind of typified us, black and blue, bleeding for each other, working really hard for each other and eking out a result."
While each player has fond memories of playing with Colorado, all have even better recollections of their time playing against the Rapids. Beckerman, Wingert and RSL head coach Jason Kreis all brought up one of the Claret-and-Cobalt's original great moments in team history.
"The one that sticks out the most is the very last game of 2008, when we made the playoffs for our first time by getting a result there," said Kreis. "Yura Movsisyan scored a goal very late in the game. We were on a run of really good form at that time, and things were just really fun. It felt like everything was going our way."
Beckerman also enthused about the 2008 game, but Borchers had his own personal favorite.
"For sure, scoring the game-tying goal and keeping the Rocky Mountain Cup when we were at home in 2010 – bar none," said Borchers. "We were against the ropes in the 90-whatever minute. To score a goal like that was really special."
The memories are abundant when talking about Colorado. But besides playing their former club and bitter rivals, the players know what is at stake with their visit to their archrivals on Saturday evening (9 pm ET, watch LIVE online). With a win, RSL (13-7-3, 42 points) would once again be back on top of the table passing idle San Jose (13-5-5, 44 points). Playing well, however, is paramount.
"It's in the back of our minds, and in my mind, it's pretty far back," said Kreis. "I'm more interested right now in every individual performance. We need to, in my mind, put together a good road performance. It's been a while since we've done that. … That's weighing more in my mind than first place."