It's a Rocky Mountain Rumble This Friday Night!

DENVER (ColoradoRapids.com) - The Rapids are currently in the lead in the race for the 2006 Rocky Mountain Cup championship title. The Rapids and Real Salt Lake just met in a 2-2 draw in Salt Lake on May 27 a result that gives the Rapids the edge in the competition due to the away-goals rule.

The Rapids will host Real this Friday night at 7:30pm at Invesco Field for the first time at home in 2006. Real Salt Lake has never won a match at Invesco Field and the Rapids will look to keep RSL winless on their home pitch.

For the full match preview of Saturday's match including projected lineups the latest injury report miscellaneous game notes broadcast information head-to-head stats and more visit the Rapids MatchUp Page by CLICKING HERE.

The Rapids will be looking to continue their title defense of the Rocky Mountain Cup competition as this game is the second of the 4-game yearly series for the trophy which bestows upon the winning club the title of Champion of the Rocky Mountain region. For full details on the Rocky Mountain Cup which was created by the fans for the fans including the competition's rules photos calendar and more visit the official Rocky Mountain Cup website by CLICKING HERE.

The Rapids are currently one spot ahead of RSL in the Western Conference standings having accumulated 14 points in 10 games as opposed to Real's 11 points from the same number of games.

This game will also feature a Rapids World Cup kickoff! Since this Friday also marks the first game date of the world's biggest sporting event the Rapids are holding a pregame ceremony involving kids covering the field pregame with flags from every country taking part in this year's World Cup! The Rapids will also run scoreboard updates with World Cup scores from that day's games at home Rapids games throughout the duration tournament.

The Rapids have also partnered with Budweiser to blanket Denver with World Cup viewing parties for every single game of the World Cup! The first 5000 fans into the stadium on Friday night will receive a free Rapids Wall Poster detailing the Viewing Party locations as well as a commemorative Pablo Mastroeni USA action poster on the reverse! For the complete schedule of viewing parties and promotions CLICK HERE.

Friday's game is also the Rapids' Spring Night of Champions celebration! Any youth soccer team that has placed 1st 2nd or 3rd in a recent league competition can qualify for free tickets to attend the game! For all the details on the Night of Champions promotion CLICK HERE.

If you haven't already gotten your tickets to Friday night's game you can do so by calling the Rapids Ticket Hotline at (303) 825-GOAL or buy them online by CLICKING HERE.

The Rapids look forward to seeing all fans out at Friday night's game!

COLORADO RAPIDS v REAL SALT LAKE MATCH PREVIEW
By MLSNet.com
INVESCO FIELD at MILE HIGH Denver Colo.
7:30 p.m. MT
TV: Altitude
June 9 2006 (WEEK 11) / MLS Game #62

The second meeting for the Rocky Mountain Cup this season is ahead in Denver with Real Salt Lake hoping their recent overall positive run can end a negative one against their arch-rivals. The Colorado Rapids haven't lost in the last four meetings between the clubs winning the last three in 2005 before they played to a 2-2 draw two weeks ago in Salt Lake City. But Real come into the contest riding a club-record four-game unbeaten streak while the Rapids saw a three-game unbeaten run of their own ended last weekend.

REFEREE: Tim Weyland. SAR (bench): Paul Scott; JAR (opposite): Jose Corro; 4th: Matt Grove
MLS Career: 54 games; FC/gm: 31.6; Y/gm: 3.7; R: 16; pens: 16
MLS 2006: 1 game; FC/gm: 29.0 (avg: 30.0); Y/gm: 2.0 (avg: 3.80); R: 0 (MLS: 9); pens: 1 (MLS: 15)
Games involving Rapids: P11 W4 L7 T0; FC/gm: 30.1; Y/gm: 3.5; R: 0; pens: 7
Games involving Real: first game

INJURY REPORT:
COLORADO RAPIDS - OUT: MF Matt Crawford (R hip); PROBABLE: GK Matt Jordan (lower back)
REAL SALT LAKE - OUT: DF Paul Broome (L ankle internal derangement); MF Seth Trembly (L knee ACL tear); PROBABLE: DF Kevin Novak (R hand fracture); DF Danny Torres (L popliteal strain); MF Kenny Cutler (L rib contusion)

INTERNATIONAL ABSENCES:
COL: Pablo Mastroeni (USA; 2006 World Cup)
RSL: Eddie Pope (USA; 2006 World Cup); Douglas Sequeira (Costa Rica; 2006 World Cup)

SUSPENDED: none

WARNINGS: RSL: Atiba Harris (suspended next yellow card)

LEAGUE HEAD-TO-HEAD
ALL-TIME (5 meetings): Rapids 3 wins (0 shootout) 7 goals ... Real 1 win (0 shootout) 4 goals ... 1 draw
IN DENVER: (2 meetings): Rapids 2 wins (0 shootout) 4 goal ... Real 0 win (0 shootout) 1 goal ... 0 draws

This is the second of four meetings between the mountain state rivals with the Rocky Mountain Cup on offer to the winner of the season series. This is the first of two consecutive meetings in Denver with the next one set for exactly two months away (Aug. 9) before concluding the season series back on the Wasatch Front on Sept. 2.

A year ago the Rapids claimed the Rocky Mountain Cup in its inaugural season with three victories in the four meetings between the clubs. The Real victory on April 16 in the first meeting was the club's first-ever victory then the Rapids won the final three encounters all coming over the final three weeks of the campaign.

Coaches' records: Fernando Clavijo vs. RSL: P5 W3 L1 D1 ... John Ellinger v COL: P5 W1 L3 D1 2006 (MLS)

LAST ENCOUNTER BETWEEN COLORADO AND SALT LAKE: 5/27/06: RSL 2 COL 2 (Cunningham 73; Kreis 88 - Kirovski 33; Wasson 84)

-The teams played to a 2-2 draw in Salt Lake City on May 27 in their first meeting this season with Real looking to again make history against their rivals. Real was looking to win a third consecutive game for the first time in club history; a year ago their first-ever win came in Salt Lake against Colorado.
- An incessant downpour led to a wild encounter on the Rice-Eccles artificial turf - especially over the final quarter of the match.
- Colorado had the lead after a 33rd-minute goal from Jovan Kirovski where he finally got the ball over the line after two saves from RSL 'keeper Scott Garlick - then putting a first rebound attempt of his own off the post before he gratefully finished off a second chance.
- The home side pulled level in the 73rd minute with some good fortune of its own. Mike Petke handled the ball as it bounced near the penalty area and referee Colin Tait pointed to the spot - though it appeared to have happened outside the box. Jeff Cunningham stepped up and converted the penalty his fourth goal in the last three games all as a substitute.
- But Real went a man down in the 82nd minute when Atiba Harris was sent off for a second bookable offense in the half and then just two minutes later the Rapids took advantage. Just having had a header from a corner cleared off the line by RSL's Kevin Novak - one of two he did in the sequence - Rapids rookie Daniel Wasson made no mistake from a resulting corner powering a header home for his first professional goal.
- However four minutes later Real again pulled level this time from the league's all-time leading scorer. Cunningham flicked a ball into the area and Jason Kreis was first to it prodding it under Colorado 'keeper Bouna Coundoul just the two had a heavy collision. It was his third goal of the season and 103rd of his MLS career.
- Here's John Ellinger's team (4-4-2): Scott Garlick - Kevin Novak Nelson Akwari (Andy Williams 69) Daniel Torres Willis Forko - Chris Klein Kenny Cutler (Jeff Cunningham 46) Carey Talley Mehdi Ballouchy - Atiba Harris Jason Kreis. [Substitutes Not Used: Nikolas Besagno Chris Brown Christian Jimenez Jay Nolly Jamie Watson]
- Here's Fernando Clavijo's team (4-1-3-2): Bouna Coundoul - Hunter Freeman Chris Wingert Mike Petke Eric Denton - Kyle Beckerman - Terry Cooke Dedi Ben-Dayan (Fabrice Noel 66) Jacob Peterson - Jovan Kirovski Clint Mathis (Daniel Wasson 80). [Substitutes Not Used: Colin Clark Peter Dzubay Dan Gargan Luchi Gonzalez Thiago Martins]

COLORADO RAPIDS
The Colorado Rapids saw their brief three-game unbeaten streak come to an end falling 4-1 to Chivas USA last Saturday at The Home Depot Center. The Rapids are still in third place in the Western Conference with 14 points from 10 matches three behind Houston Dynamo and seven out of first place in the division.

LAST MATCH
- Chivas USA had put an end to a six-game winless run the weekend before while the Rapids were flying high unbeaten in three games including a pair of 1-0 victories against the Galaxy. But bad luck struck the visitors after just six minutes. Left back Jonathan Bornstein knocked a low ball into the mixer from the edge of the area and Rapids defender Mike Petke slid and tried to break up the ball which was intended for Ante Razov but instead sent the ball into the back of the net.
- In the 24th minute Ante Razov scored his 90th career MLS goal to double the Chivas lead. He was set free down the right flank by Juan Pablo Garcia and raced in unmolested before ripping a low drive past Bound Coundoul just inside the Rapids penalty area.
- Colorado pegged Chivas back seven minutes later when Dedi Ben-Dayan took a short pass from Jacob Peterson recollected the ball after a somewhat fortunate bounce as he tried to split a pair of defenders then jammed home a low shot inside Preston Burpo's left-hand post.
- But Chivas finally put the game away with a pair of goals inside the final quarter-hour. A neat combination saw Razov slide the ball into the area for Juan Francisco Palencia and as he rounded Coundoul the ball rolled to Francisco Mendoza who gleefully punched the ball home. Nine minutes later Mendoza returned the favor splitting the Rapids defense with a through ball that Palencia poked home underneath the advancing 'keeper.
- Rapids head coach Fernando Clavijo made no changes to the team that defeated the Los Angeles Galaxy 1-0 four days earlier at home.
- Here's Clavijo's team (4-3-1-2): Bouna Coundoul - Hunter Freeman Mike Petke Aitor Karanka Eric Denton (Nicolas Hernandez 71) - Terry Cooke Kyle Beckerman Dedi Ben Dayan - Jovan Kirovski - Clint Mathis (Thiago Martins 82) Jacob Peterson (Daniel Wasson 59). [Substitutes Not Used: Joe Cannon Dan Gargan Luchi Gonzalez Chris Wingert]
- "We just didn't have our legs from the beginning said Clavijo. "We weren't competitive tonight."

TEAM NEWS
- Facing a third match in a week the Rapids were almost never in the game. "We played well for 15 minutes in the first half said Clavijo. "We moved the ball well and created some chances and then we came back out in the second half but we were flat again. We tried to put a little bit more pressure on them but the legs went out simple as that."
- After allowing just two goals - and getting two clean sheets - in his three starts before the Chivas match after taking over for Joe Cannon Coundoul was beaten four times in the Chivas game. Cannon is now recovered from his injury and it is unclear who will be between the posts on Friday.
- "Hopefully Cannon will be ready to go but one game cannot dictate how it's going to happen said Clavijo. "We're happy that he's healthy again but we're going to go day by day for now."
- Coundoul knows the decision is not his but regardless he is happy with the playing time he's had of late.
- "I'm just going to go to practice and work really hard and when that day comes the coach will have to make a decision he said. "Being a goalie is tough but everyday I'm learning and getting more experience and I'm getting more comfortable as the days go on."
- After conceding a late equalizer in the first meeting with RSL in Salt Lake City the Rapids are keen to prove they should have come away with three points at Rice-Eccles Stadium.
- "Those are things players think about in the back of your head defender Hunter Freeman said to The Denver Post. "It's not something that maybe is addressed in front of everybody but it's definitely not something we all just forget about."
- It's also another example that the rivalry is growing between the mountain state club. "A lot more emphasis is put on these games (with) the whole Rocky Mountain Cup issue and it's one of those rivals where every game we play is going to have more emphasis said Clint Mathis.

REAL SALT LAKE
Real Salt Lake extended their club-record unbeaten streak to four matches defeating the Chicago Fire 3-1 at Rice-Eccles Stadium last weekend. Real are now in fourth place in the Western Conference with 11 points from 10 matches three behind the Rapids and one ahead of fellow 2005 exapnsion club Chivas USA.

LAST MATCH
- Real had two wins and a draw in their last three games -- the first time in club history they'd gone that long without a loss -- while the Fire had finally reached the end of their long and winding road a six-game unbeaten streak coming to an end the weekend before at Chivas.
- Jeff Cunningham had four goals in his past three games -- all as a substitute -- but he was given the start with the suspension to Atiba Harris. In the 57th minute he showed it didn't matter gathering a pass from Carey Talley curled in behind the Fire back four and turning home a low drive inside the far post from the left side of the area to give RSL the lead.
- The Fire pulled level just five minutes later Brian Plotkin running onto a loose ball every bit of 30 yards from the RSL goal and lashing a screaming drive inside Scott Garlick's left-hand post.
- Cunningham created the go-ahead goal for the home side when he put a low rolling cross into the goalmouth that Fire rookie Dasan Robinson could only turn into his own goal (69). Then in the 77th minute he did complete his double deftly chipping Zach Thornton from outside the right corner of the box to move into a tie atop the MLS Golden Boot standings.
- Real head coach John Ellinger made one change to the team that played to a 2-2 draw with the Rapids the weekend before Cunningham coming into the team in place of the suspended Atiba Harris his first start since May 6.
- Here's Ellinger's team (4-4-2): Scott Garlick - Kevin Novak Nelson Akwari Daniel Torres Willis Forko - Chris Klein Kenny Cutler (Andy Williams 69) Carey Talley Mehdi Ballouchy - Jason Kreis Jeff Cunningham (Jamie Watson 88). [Substitutes Not Used: Nikolas Besagno Chris Brown Christian Jimenez Ryan Johnson Jay Nolly]

TEAM NEWS
- Cunningham has six goals in four games and all of them have been scored after the 57th minute. Ellinger said Cunningham has played a big part in the team's recent winning run.
- "It was just a matter of his confidence Ellinger said. Early in the season when RSL went 0-5-1 "he was pushing the envelope a little bit and the weight of what was happening with the team was wearing down on him."
- The late explosion also continued another trend for Real. Twelve of their 15 goals have been scored in the second half 10 in the final half hour and six in the last 15 minutes.
- "A big part of that has to do with our fitness coach John Ellinger said. "That's been a radical improvement from last year. ... We get more of the killer instinct that we didn't see last year but we're getting to see it emerge from this group."
- Real have scored 10 of their goals in the last four games. "Even when we were going through the hard time at the beginning of the season they never stopped working in training and never stopped working in games Ellinger said. "They never really stopped believing and it just took one good game the L.A. game and confidence shot up. The guys will tell you the feel like they are over the hump."
- RSL goalkeeper Scott Garlick was credited with his 100th career victory in the win against the Fire a milestone his teammates were clearly excited about but that he downplayed. "I don't necessarily play this game for individual accomplishments Garlick said. "It's a team game."
- After the game Garlick was presented him with a game ball signed by all of his teammates. He also received plenty of hugs and congratulations from teammates and coaches after postgame interviews. "It validates a lot of the hard work I've put in over the years and it validates the work my teammates have put in he said."