When you hear the word “rivalry”, matchups from all across the sports landscape come to mind: Real Madrid and FC Barcelona, the Yankees and Red Sox, Michigan and Ohio State football, UNC and Duke basketball, the old days between the Colorado Avalanche and Detroit Red Wings.
Whether it be from historical purposes, geographical location or recent results, every team has a rival - some stretch over decades, some bubble up out of nowhere from fan or player interactions.
For fans of the Rapids, there have been a number of 'rivals' over the years. Look back at to the earliest days in club history, the 2010 MLS Cup or the 2016 fight for the Supporters’ Shield and it could be argued that FC Dallas is a true rival. And when talking rivals, the club from Kansas City has to be mentioned. After countless battles over the twenty-plus years, and especially recent meetings with Sporting KC, there are certainly the the makings of a true rivalry.
However, in the eyes of Rapids supporters, Centennial 38, the players, and front office there’s only one team that stands out when the word 'rivalry' is mentioned: Real Salt Lake.
“It’s definitely one of those games on the calendar that you want to circle, for us and for the fans,” Dominique Badji said. “Everybody has a little chip on their shoulder so it’s one of the best games and best atmospheres to go into.”
Now, I'm not suggesting that the RMC is on par with the greatest rivalries in sports, but to those involved there is absolutely a little bit extra on the line when these two clubs meet on the field.
The Rapids are going into Saturday’s matchup with a chip on their shoulder. After claiming the Cup for the supporters in 2015, they have been forced to watch RSL lift the trophy the past two seasons. On the flip side, you can bet RSL head coach Mike Petke will have his side ready for a physical and emotional battle on their home soil. Petke knows as well as anyone - nothing can lift the spirits of a club like a win over a rival.
“It’s time to bring the trophy back,” stated Shkëlzen Gashi who has experience scoring in the Rocky Mountain Cup back in 2016, “For everybody it’s important, especially against this team because it’s the Rocky Mountain Cup. We just want to win.”
From the outside, you'd think it takes some time to get acclimated and understand the importance of any rivalry. For the Rapids, with so many new faces on and off the field that's certainly not the case. There's a clear and immediate understanding of what this derby is all about.
“We understand how important this is to the fans and the club,” Anthony Hudson said. “To bring home this trophy would be fantastic for the team. We have confidence, we have a really good team ethic now, everyone’s working for each other.”
Despite being dominated in the early stages of the game, RSL managed to win the first leg of the 2018 RMC at home on April 21, and now Colorado will need at least a point in order to force a decisive third game. A win or a tie will keep the Rapids' dreams of bringing the Cup home to their supporters alive.
Dom Badji may have said it best, “We definitely don’t like each other… It’s one of those games where you give it all you got and when you come out on top, it’s a great feeling.”