SANDY, Utah — Real Salt Lake have owned the Rocky Mountain Cup for the past six seasons against the Colorado Rapids. And getting a seventh in a row is just as important as the rest because the fans demand it, according to Jason Kreis.
“If it means something to our fans, then it means something to us,” RSL's head coach told reporters on Thursday. “We have tried to say for many years that the fans are a part of our family and, if it’s important to a member of our family, then it’s important to us. I think the guys demonstrate that every time we play against Colorado, and I think the guys want to do well by our fans. That means something to us.”
One of Kreis’ “guys,” Nat Borchers, who is working his way back from offseason quadriceps surgery and is questionable for Saturday’s game (6 pm ET, MLS Live), has been on both sides of the rivalry. He also grew up in Pueblo, Colo., which is barely more than 100 miles south of Denver, so the Rocky Mountain Cup has extra special meaning for him.
“I love this rivalry, this series we play against Colorado," he said. "I think it brings the best out in both teams. It seems like every year there is some sort of drama to the series — a last-minute goal or a red card or whatever it might be. It’s always a lot of fun to play.”
RSL are also desperate to get a win in their home opener in front of their family and fans. And although the regional bragging rights are cherished, it's the points that truly count at the end of the day.
“We alway expect to get three points at home, and this isn’t really any different just because it is against Colorado," Kreis said. "It could be any team and we want to get the three at home."
But the head coach knows that rivalry or not, RSL will have their work cut out for them against a Rapids side that's starting to figure out the style of play Colorado head coach Oscar Pareja prefers.
“[They are a] good team, hungry team," Kreis said. "Probably outplayed their opponent in their first two matches. A team that I think is really understanding exactly what is asked of them from their new head coach last year, and a team that is extremely hungry at the moment because they have lost their first two games — a very, very dangerous opponent for us.”