Real Salt Lake vs Colorado Rapids
MLS Regular Season, Week 25
August 24, 2019 - 8:00 PM
Rio Tinto Stadium - Sandy, Utah
Can in-form Diego Rubio help the Rapids reclaim the Rocky Mountain Cup?
Though the Colorado Rapids (7-13-6, 11th in MLS Western Conference) came away from their weekend match with the Houston Dynamo with a point in a 2-2 draw, they can’t help but feel that they left an opportunity on the table. After going up by two goals in the first half, the Rapids eventually succumbed, perhaps due to the leftover fatigue induced by a midweek affair in Minnesota combined with the inhospitably hot Houston conditions, and allowed two late goals by Dynamo forward Mauro Manotas. Defender Tommy Smith bemoaned both the weather and the result, saying, “It’s tough out there. I don’t think people actually realize the conditions until you come here and experience it for yourself. But that’s no excuse, after going two goals up you should never not win the game.”
In spite of the letdown that Rapids fans may have in the final result, there’s not much more that they can ask of Diego Rubio. The Chilean forward extended his excellent run of form by notching both Rapids goals, thus marking his seventh and eighth tallies in just his past ten games. The first came in classic Rapids counter-attack fashion, as Sam Nicholson headed Smith's long ball into Rubio in open space. The latter spoke to Rubio’s nose for goal as he made a heads-up steal off of a lazy pass and found himself one-on-one with the keeper. Former Rapids defender and current analyst Marcelo Balboa remarked about the dynamic partnership that’s been established between Rubio and fellow striker Kei Kamara. “The partnership has been good. Kei Kamara pushes the defenders just far enough way that it opens up [lanes for Rubio]. We’ve seen over the last two or three games huge holes for Diego Rubio to get the ball, to distribute, and to go to goal,” Balboa said after the match.
Another Rapids player that shone in the draw was defender Sam Vines, who put together a solid ninety-minute effort against the Dynamo’s dangerous forward Alberth Elis. Fellow defender Tommy Smith spoke to the young left back’s performance and progression after the game. “He’s grown into that role and he’s becoming really consistent. The world is his oyster. He’s getting better and better each week and I’m delighted for him.”
Can a new manager shake things up for RSL?
The Rocky Mountain Cup, a rivalry trophy engineered by fans from both the Colorado and Real Salt Lake sides in 2005, is up for grabs once again as the Burgundy Boys take their show to Rio Tinto Stadium in Salt Lake City this Saturday. Though the competition has skewed towards RSL’s favor in recent years, this season’s Rapids squad is hungry to bring the Cup back where it belongs.
Here’s how the math shakes out: After falling to Real Salt Lake at home 3-2 earlier this season, the Rapids will need to win this next match outrightly by at least two goals or, alternatively, win by a differential of one goal as long as they score at least four goals. It’s a tall task ahead of the Burgundy Boys, but a rivalry game like this is the perfect time for some magical moments. Just ask Tim Howard, whose penalty save against Yura Movsisyan in 2016 will live on in the hearts and minds of Rapids fans forever:
As the two teams prepare for the clash, RSL’s side has surrounding storylines that go beyond the normal course of play. The team is in a hazy situation after having recently fired former coach Mike Petke. The former RSL head coach was originally hit with a three-game suspension from MLS for his conduct in a Leagues Cup match against Tigres UANL on July 24th. He would not return to the club’s sidelines. And though the team has performed well in the few weeks that interim head coach Freddy Juarez has been in charge, there’s no telling how this kind of drama will impact RSL come this Saturday evening.
What to watch for...
Connor Cape, Radio Play-by-Play Announcer
Rocky Mountain Cup. One of the best rivalries in the league and it’ll be decided this weekend in Salt Lake City. For the Rapids to take back the trophy, they need to win by two-goal margin.
Daunting? Sure. Impossible? No. If anything, these are the sort of moments you want in a rivalry. You want to be the underdog going on the road in a fierce environment with all the odds stacked against you. It shows you how much you want it and how much it means to you when you reach the mountaintop. For the Rapids, Saturday is all about making a comeback with everything saying it can’t be done. But it can be.
Jordan Angeli, Radio Analyst
Rivalry week, always seems to up the intensity instantly. The Rapids will need to continue to build off of two good road performances but the big key is staying tuned in for 90 minutes. Defensively, the Rapids need to stay compact and deny not only the spaces in-between horizontal lines but also vertical lines. RSL likes to overload the middle with a drifting Rusnak and their wingers will come play off the number nine too. Communication and tracking runners as they try and play between the lines will be key.