Pareja on RSL match: Big opportunity to give joy to our fans

Before first practice, coach reminded team of the significance of the RMC to Rapids fans

Before the Rapids began their video session prior to the first  practice of the week on Wednesday, coach Oscar Pareja wanted to make sure that everyone understood what they would be preparing for over the next few days.

On Saturday, the Rapids face Real Salt Lake at Rio Tinto Stadium in the first of three Subaru Rocky Mountain Cup matches this year (4 p.m. MT, Altitude TV).

"That was the first thing we spoke about this morning," Pareja told reporters after Wednesday's practice. "We said, 'guys this is the game.' And I know we're taking it one game at a time, but against Salt Lake, it's a special one."

Not only is it RSL's home opener, but it's the seventh time in the nine year history of the series - which is tied at 9-9-7 all-time - that the first match is being played in Utah.

Pareja got his first taste of the rivalry last year.

After dropping the first two games at Rio Tinto - thus ensuring RSL would retain the Rocky Mountain Cup for a sixth straight year - Pareja's team defeated Salt Lake on Aug. 4 in Commerce City (WATCH HIGHLIGHTS). The win snapped an eight game winless streak by the Rapids in the rivalry - the last win before coming in May 2009.

"I felt it last year, with the fans," Pareja said of the rivarly. "And now that I've been here longer I know what it means, and the players know."

Pareja said that all players approach matches differently - especially rivalry games. Some get anxious, some stay even, and others add extra pressure, he said. So the second-year coach wanted to make sure everyone was on the same page as they prepare to face RSL for the first time in 2013.

"For me, it's the staff and players putting everything on the table and saying, 'you know what. It's a big opportunity to give joy to our fans," Pareja said. "Especially because our fans need something, and winning this game would be awesome for them."

Win, lose or tie, the Cup won't be decided this weekend. The teams meet twice more, with both matches at Dick's Sporting Goods Park on April 6 and August 2.