Preview: Rapids' Rocky Mtn. Cup Title Defense Begins This Saturday at Real Salt Lake on ESPN-2!

DENVER (ColoradoRapids.com) - Riding high off last weekend's 1-0 victory over the defending MLS Champion LA Galaxy the Rapids travel to Utah this Saturday to battle Real Salt Lake for the first time this season on national TV.

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 start their title defense of the Rocky Mountain Cup competition as this game is the first 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 with a game in hand having accumulated 10 points in 7 games as opposed to Real's 7 points from 8 games played.

This Rapids will also be hosting an Official Away-Game Viewing Party for this match! The Rapids invite you to join other Rapids fans at The British Bulldog Denver's newest and best soccer bar! The game will be live for your viewing enjoyment.

Rapids vs. Real Salt Lake Viewing Party Details:

WHEN: Saturday May 27. Kickoff is at 2:00pm MT live on ESPN-2!

WHERE: The British Bulldog located at 2052 Stout Street in Denver (Broadway and Stout are the cross streets). Phone: 303-295-7974. Get there early as seating is limited!

COST: Free to attend for fans of all ages!

The Colorado Rapids look forward to seeing all fans out at the British Bulldog for the game this Saturday!

Colorado Rapids at Real Salt Lake Match Preview
From MLSNet.com

RICE-ECCLES STADIUM Salt Lake City Utah
2 p.m. MT
TV: ESPN2
May 27 2006 (WEEK 9) / MLS Game #49

The first installment of the Rocky Mountain Cup is ahead with Real Salt Lake once again playing host to the Colorado Rapids on ESPN's Soccer Saturday with a chance to make history. A year ago Real welcomed their mountain state rival to Rice-Eccles Stadium for the first time on national television - and won for the first time in club history. This time it's a chance for RSL to extend a winning streak to three games for the first time ever after having failed to do on two previous occasions. The Rapids have won three in a row in the Rocky Mountain competition and would like nothing more than to extend their winning streak to two in a match that also features the intriguing subplot of the return of high-profile attacking talents Jeff Cunningham and Clint Mathis to face their former clubs of a year ago.

REFEREE: Colin Tait. SAR (bench): David Bragg; JAR (opposite): Joe Ellis; 4th: Oscar Ortiz
MLS Career: first game
MLS 2006: first game
Games involving Real: first game
Games involving Rapids: first game

INJURY REPORT:
REAL SALT LAKE - OUT: DF Paul Broome (L ankle internal derangement); MF Seth Trembly (L knee ACL tear); PROBABLE: DF Danny Torres (L popliteal strain)
COLORADO RAPIDS - OUT: GK Matt Jordan (lower back); DF Aitor Karanka (R ankle sprain); FW Nicolas Hernandez (R hamstring strain); QUESTIONABLE: GK Joe Cannon (R groin strain); PROBABLE: MF Clint Mathis (R groin strain)

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

SUSPENDED: none

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

LEAGUE HEAD-TO-HEAD
ALL-TIME (4 meetings): Real 1 win (0 shootout) 2 goals ... Rapids 3 wins (0 shootout) 5 goals ... 0 draws
AT RICE-ECCLES: (2 meetings): Real 1 win (0 shootout) 1 goal ... Rapids 1 win (0 shootout) 1 goal ... 0 draws

This is the first of four meetings between the mountain state rivals with the Rocky Mountain Cup on offer to the winner of the season series. Their next two meetings will both be in Denver on June 9 then Aug. 9 before concluding the season series back on the Wasatch Front on Sept. 2.

LAST YEAR (MLS)
4/16: RSL 1 COL 0 (Dunseth (81)
9/21: COL 2 RSL 0 (Peguero 49; Ben-Dayan 87)
10/1: COL 2 RSL 1 (Ben Dayan 39; Cunningham 86 - Mathis 14)
10/12: RSL 0 COL 1 (Noel 87)

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 coming on ESPN's Soccer Saturday then the Rapids won the final three encounters all coming over the final three weeks of the campaign.

Coaches records: John Ellinger v COL: P4 W1 L3 D0 ...
Fernando Clavijo vs. RSL: P4 W3 L1 D0

REAL SALT LAKE
For the first time in nine months Real Salt Lake are riding a two-game winning streak coming from behind last Saturday at Rice-Eccles Stadium to claim a 2-1 victory against the Kansas City Wizards. Real are now tied for fourth place in the Western Conference with seven points from eight matches (level with the Los Angeles Galaxy with a game in hand) three points behind the Colorado Rapids and 11 points out of first place.

LAST MATCH
-Real were trying to put together back-to-back wins for the first time in nine months after winning on the road for the first time ever with each team hit by absences due to World Cup duty.
-The Wizards struck first on 27 minutes second-year forward Ryan Pore running onto a looping ball from right flank and poking it under RSL 'keeper Scott Garlick as he raced into the goal area.
-But Real came storming back after a couple of late attacking substitutions. Mehdi Ballouchy scored his first professional goal splitting the Wizards defense to run onto a cross from Chris Klein from the right flank and sidefooting home from the heart of the area in the 78th minute.
-Then just two minutes later Jeff Cunningham took a pass at the right corner of the area juked his way to near the endline and from almost an impossible angle drove the ball past Bo Oshoniyi inside the far post to give Real their back-to-back wins since last Aug. 6.
-Real head coach John Ellinger didn't make any changes to the team that started against the Los Angeles Galaxy in the 3-0 victory in Carson the weekend before. But two changes in the second half proved the key to victory.
-Here's Ellinger's team (4-4-2): Scott Garlick - Kevin Novak Nelson Akwari (Andy Williams 69) Daniel Torres Willis Forko - Chris Klein Kenny Cutler Carey Talley Mehdi Ballouchy (Jamie Watson 92+) - Jason Kreis Atiba Harris (Jeff Cunningham 59). [Substitutes Not Used: Nikolas Besagno Chris Brown Christian Jimenez Jay Nolly]

TEAM NEWS
-In addition to the substitutions in the second half Ellinger made a key tactical switch at halftime. He moved Mehdi Ballouchy into a central midfield role in front of Kenny Cutler and Carey Talley while putting Jason Kreis and Chris Klein into wide attacking roles to essentially match the Wizards scheme.
-"In the first half we were getting killed by their extra midfielder Ellinger said. "Kerry Zavagnin basically just sitting back as a free safety and picking everything up so we just switched to a 4-3-3 in the second half and make it harder for them make them have to play in the middle try to get our outside backs to go forward more in the second half which worked a little better."
-For the last two matches Ellinger had returned Ballouchy to a wide midfield role. But he has been looked upon as a central playmaker. "Mehdi [Ballouchy] can play. We moved him from the outside to the middle. There is no sense making a sub at that point Ellinger said. "It was just putting him in a position where he could keep Kerry [Zavagnin] busy. Carey Talley and Kenny Cutler were dealing with the other two midfielders. Mehdi's goal was a very timely goal for us."
-Ballouchy started the first four matches then was reduced to a substitute role v. Los Angeles on April 29. But he has returned to the starting lineup for the last three games. He also had an interesting day Tuesday: Born in Morocco he watched the USA's friendly with interest as he could potentially play for either country.
-"I really think since the time we brought him in against L.A. I think he's reached a different level from that point to this point said Ellinger to the Deseret Morning News. "His play has accelerated."
-With a second consecutive match with Eddie Pope away on national team duty Real have now allowed just one goal in those two games. He maintained the same back four for the second consecutive week.
-"Except for that one moment I thought we played well defensively Ellinger said. "Kevin and Willis are definitely getting the job done."
-Cunningham has hit for three goals in his last two games - all as a substitute. Last year he came off the bench in five of Colorado's first eight games - and scored four goals. On the season five of his 12 goals scored were as a substitute.
-"However I can help my team I'm happy with my role said Cunningham. "I'm happy we have two wins and we can build on that." Said Ellinger to the Deseret News: "Jeff is a very dangerous player period - whether he starts or comes off the bench."
-Real are now brimming with confidence after the two successive victories. In its inaugural season RSL twice won back-to-back games - but it has never won three in a row.
-"I've been saying from day one over the years you have a stretch of time where everyone struggles ours happened at the beginning of the season said Cunningham. "But hopefully we can continue to build off this and prove to everybody that we're a solid team."

COLORADO RAPIDS
For the second time in three weeks the Colorado Rapids followed up a loss with a victory this time going to The Home Depot Center and coming away with a 1-0 victory against the Los Angeles Galaxy last Saturday night. The Rapids are in third place in the Western Conference with 10 points from seven matches three behind second-place Houston Dynamo and eight out of the top spot.

LAST MATCH
-The Galaxy had been shutout in three consecutive games and were winless in home matches as they played host to the Rapids in a rematch of last year's Western Conference Championship.
-But it was the visitors who settled first Jacob Peterson giving Colorado a 14th-minute lead running onto a well-weighted through ball from Eric Denton in the left side of the area before turning it inside the far post.
-Bouna Coundoul - making his first professional start - made sure that's all the Rapids would need making a number of wonderful saves to give his team the victory just a week after he made his MLS debut coming on in relief of the injured Joe Cannon.
-The Galaxy saw their scoreless streak extended to 390 minutes a club record while also now winless in their last six home games (including all five this season) also a club record.
-Rapids head coach Fernando Clavijo made just one change to the team that lost 1-0 to the Columbus Crew the weekend before - Bouna Coundoul starting for Joe Cannon between the posts.
-Here's Clavijo's team (4-1-3-2): Bouna Coundoul - Hunter Freeman Mike Petke Aitor Karanka Eric Denton - Kyle Beckerman - Terry Cooke Dedi Ben Dayan (Thiago Martins 46) Nicolas Hernandez (Chris Wingert 78) - Jacob Peterson (Dan Gargan 64) Jovan Kirovski. [Substitutes Not Used: Peter Dzubay Luchi Gonzalez Clint Mathis Fabrice Noel]

TEAM NEWS
-Once again the play of Coundoul saved the day for the Rapids. He played well in his MLS debut - coming on in the 10th minute in Columbus and although the Rapids dominated the game they couldn't find the back of the net. When they did against the Galaxy the Senegal-born 'keeper made sure it was enough.
-"He's a young goalkeeper inexperienced but an outstanding athlete and he showed it today Clavijo said. "We have a lot of confidence in him. We knew he was going to do a good job. We didn't know it was going to be a great job."
-Said defender Hunter Freeman: "Last week he came in and he was a little bit nervous in the first game of his career. He got that under his belt and tonight I thought he was phenomenal. Heck if he doesn't come up with some huge saves at the end of the game it's 1-1 and who knows what happens after that. Luckily we weathered the storm and a lot of that goes to him."
-And it's now become "Bouna Time"....."Joe is really really good. To me he's the best goalie I've seen so far Coundoul said. "But like they say it's Bouna Time now. ... I don't want to brag but I always work hard. My coach makes me work very very hard in practice and I proved that I was ready. I just came and did what I'm capable of doing."
-It was the Rapids' first clean sheet of the season after recording 10 in 32 games last season. "One person's injury is another person's opportunity defender Mike Petke said. "Bouna's that type of guy that never got a shot always showed up at practice always worked his butt off."
-After coming on a sub in three of the first five games Peterson - the Rapids second-round SuperDraft pick this year out of Indiana University (21st overall) has started the last two.
-"We worked it out that we knew we needed to stretch them defensively and we needed Jacob Peterson to really play with Cobi Jones. Cobi Jones is a player that we all know is extremely talented and likes to go forward so we knew we needed to use the space that was created when he pushes up and penetrate said Clavijo. "Jacob did that and it was a great goal for a young player."
-Real are keenly aware of another implication of this weekend's rematch for the Rocky Mountain Cup - the return of Clint Mathis to Salt Lake where he was traded from for Jeff Cunningham (Said Real head coach John Ellinger: "Clint's coming after the win against Kansas City). Cunningham has four goals for the Rapids while Mathis has no goals and no assists in three starts for Colorado.
-"I hope so Clavijo said about adding heat to the rivalry. "Let me put it this way I hate everybody. I want to beat everybody every time I play them."