It is exactly 12 years ago this weekend that Real Salt Lake defender Brian Dunseth launched himself at a Clint Mathis freekick and sent a diving header past Colorado Rapids’ goalkeeper Joe Cannon.
Dunseth’s dramatic goal, netted with nine minutes of the game remaining at Rice-Eccles Stadium, was the first scored at home by Real Salt Lake, secured a first win in Major League Soccer for the then-newcomers, and it came in a first-ever clash with their neighbors from across the Rockies. A rivalry was born.
The only surviving player from that first meeting in 2005 is midfielder Kyle Beckerman, though on that occasion he was sporting the colors of the Rapids. Coincidentally, one of the two assistant referees at Rice-Eccles was Kermit Quisenberry. He will be running one of the lines on Saturday.
Former teammates will be on opposing benches when rivalries are renewed inside Dick’s Sporting Goods Park. Mike Petke has recently replaced the ousted Jeff Cassar. He and Pablo Mastroeni played alongside each another, for the Rapids, in five games against RSL.
Having gone 0-3-2 in their opening five games, a run which contributed to the early-season exit for Cassar, the Claret-and-Cobalt last weekend claimed their first win since August 26 (which was, incidentally, against the Rapids). In blizzard-like conditions, second half goals from Albert Rusnák, Yura Movsisyan, and Luke Mulholland gifted Petke victory in his first game in charge.
Rusnák was named MLS Player of the Week. The Slovakian arrived from Dutch club Groningen at the start of January, and already appears settled into his new role, boasting one goal and three assists. Seen as a replacement for Javier Morales, who skipped off to FC Dallas, Rusnák has also struck up an early understanding with Movsisyan.
The Rapids are without a win since the opening day of the season, when they triumphed 1-0 at home over New England Revolution. They have since gone 0-2-1, which includes road losses at New York Red Bulls and Sporting Kansas City, as well as a frustrating 2-2 tie at home to newcomers Minnesota United FC.
That tie with the Loons extended the unbeaten home record to 19 games, but the Rapids are going through a period of adjustment, having lost Axel Sjöberg to injury and 2016 stalwarts Sam Cronin and Marc Burch to Minnesota.
Mohammed Saeid - one of two players to move in the opposite direction - appears to have shaken off the calf injury which prevented him from traveling to Sporting KC last Sunday. He could make the 18 for the first time.
And, having made his MLS debut at Children’s Mercy Park, Homegrown signing Kortne Ford is in line to make his first appearance in front of a Rapids crowd this weekend, and the young man from Greeley will know only too well how much this game means to the burgundy faithful.
Rapids: Alan Gordon (doubt - hamstring), Dillon Serna (doubt - calf), Axel Sjöberg (out - hamstring)
RSL: Chad Barrett (out - knee), David Horst (out - knee), Jordan Allen (doubt - quad), Justen Glad (doubt - knee), Tony Beltran (doubt - back), Aaron Maund (doubt - hamstring), Sunny (doubt - hamstring)
Referee: Ismail Elfath
Assistant 1: Kermit Quisenberry
Assistant 2: Logan Brown
4th Official: Daniel Radford
HOW TO FOLLOW
Radio: Altitude Sports Radio AM 950 (English); La Invasora 87.7FM (Spanish)
WHAT TO KNOW
The University of Denver could be well represented this Saturday. Kortne Ford could be joined in the Rapids 18 by Sam Hamilton. Another DU product, Reagan Dunk, was drafted by RSL, and was an unused sub last Saturday in their win over the Whitecaps.
The Rapids conceded twice in their most recent home game - a 2-2 draw with Minnesota on March 18. They have conceded multiple goals in back-to-back home games just twice in their last 38 matches at Dick’s Sporting Goods Park.
Real Salt Lake are winless in their last eight away games (0-7-1), averaging 0.6 goals per game in that time.
Nick Rimando has been in goal for 12 victories against the Rapids, his most against any active MLS franchise (he also has 12 wins against Chivas USA).