Colorado Rapids

Preview | Colorado Rapids face rivals Real Salt Lake in first match of the Rocky Mountain Cup


COMMERCE CITY, Colo. — The Colorado Rapids (0-1-1, 1pt) are on the road to face Real Salt Lake (1-1-1, 4 pts) for the season’s first edition of the Rocky Mountain Cup on Saturday, March 9, at America First Field (7:30 p.m. MT; Apple TV – MLS Season Pass, Altitude Sports Radio 92.5FM).

Since 2005, the Rapids and Real Salt Lake have taken part in one of the most heated rivalries in MLS. The two clubs compete for the Rocky Mountain Cup, a trophy awarded to the winner of the regular-season series, based on total points, by a bipartisan committee of supporters from the two teams. If the teams are tied in points following their three regular-season matchups in 2023, the tiebreaker will be total goals scored across the series. If the teams are still tied after that, the current holder of the Cup, Real Salt Lake, will retain it. RSL emerged triumphant in the last season's RMC, besting Colorado.

The Rapids opened their 2024 home campaign with a draw against Nashville SC on Saturday night, playing to a 1-1 draw at DICK’S Sporting Goods Park. Three offseason signings made their home debuts in the contest, including midfielder Djordje Mihailovic, forward Omir Fernandez and goalkeeper Zack Steffen. Defender Sam Vines made his first appearance at home since returning from a stint in Europe. Oliver Larraz made his first MLS start at home and played a full 90 minutes for the first time with the first team in the regular season.  

Colorado Rapids have undergone a busy offseason with key additions, including head coach Chris Armas. Notable players like Steffen, Mihailovic, and defender Vines strengthen the squad, alongside acquisitions such as midfielder Fernandez and Jasper Löffelsend. The team further reinforced with three first-round MLS SuperDraft picks: midfielder Wayne Frederick, forward Kimani Stewart-Baynes, and defender Nate Jones. Goalkeeper Adam Beaudry joins the squad after signing a Homegrown player contract, further establishing the club's drive-to-youth commitment. 

Real Salt Lake opened their MLS season on the road to face Inter Miami CF at Chase Stadium, falling 2-0. Their second match of the season was a visit to St. Louis CITY SC where the two sides played to a 1-1 draw. RSL recorded a 3-0 victory against LAFC in their inaugural home match of the 2024 season, marking their third match of the year. The win was fueled by winger Andrés Gómez's brace and forward Chicho Arango's goal. However, midfielder Braian Ojeda received a red card in the 86th minute after accumulating two yellow cards and will not face the Rapids when they visit.   

Saturday’s match will be just the 57th regular season meeting between the two sides. In the last meeting, the Colorado Rapids (5-17-12, 27 pts) were held scoreless for the first time under interim head coach Chris Little as they fell 0-1 against Real Salt Lake (14-12-8, 50 pts) in their final game of the 2023 MLS season. 

Alongside the 2021 MLS Newcomer of the Year, Cristian Arango, RSL will feature new additions acquired during the offseason. These include defenders Alexandros Katranis and Kevin Bonilla, midfielders Matt Crooks and Matthew Bell, along with homegrown midfielder Luca Moisa and homegrown forward Zavier Gozo. Additionally, RSL loaned out forward Rubio Rubín to Querétaro, defender Delentz Pierre to Colorado Springs Switchbacks, and defender Kevin Lambert to San Antonio FC. Notably, defender Kevin Bonilla underwent successful surgery late last month. The club also welcomed back Jason Kreis, who serves as the club’s director of operations and special projects. 

Saturday’s match adds another layer of rivalry as RSL is led by head coach Pablo Mastroeni, a Rapids club icon. Mastroeni spent 12 seasons as a player in Colorado (2002-13), leading in all-time appearances (225) and games started (217). He captained the side to the 2010 MLS Cup and later coached from 2014-17, guiding them to the 2016 Western Conference Final and a club-record 58 points in the regular season. Additionally, RSL goalkeeper Zac MacMath played for the Rapids from 2015-18, securing 10 clean sheets in 41 appearances. MacMath earned the co-Most Valuable Player title in 2016 and was named the Rapids' Humanitarian of the Year in both 2017 and 2018 for his community work.

Prior to joining the Rapids via trade in January, midfielder Löffelsend spent two seasons with Real Salt Lake after being drafted by them in the 2022 MLS SuperDraft. Löffelsend initially signed a deal with the Real Monarchs, RSL's MLS Next Pro side, on Feb. 22, 2022. Just five days later, he signed with the first team, making his league debut on Feb. 27, 2022. He concluded his rookie campaign with five assists, complemented by his first career goal on July 30, 2022 against San Jose. Throughout his tenure at RSL, he delivered seven assists and scored a pair of goals in 51 regular-season appearances.