Commerce City, CO – There will be more than just three points on the line on Saturday at Dick's Sporting Goods Park when Real Salt Lake visits the Colorado Rapids.
The two sides are separated by three points at the top of the Western Conference, and Saturday's match will also determine the destination of the Rocky Mountain Cup, which has resided in Salt Lake since 2006.
Saturday's meeting is the third and final one this season between the two rivals, with Colorado owning a win and a draw so far this year, meaning the cup will be theirs with a draw or win on Saturday.
The Rapids are not only attempting to claim the Rocky Mountain Cup, but also to continue a good run of form that has seen the club put together a six-game unbeaten streak.
A 2-0 win over the Los Angeles Galaxy last time out continued the good run for the Rapids, and it also saw forward Edson Buddle show glimpses of his former self as he assisted on a Dillon Powers goal in the second half.
Buddle not only collected a ring that night for helping the Galaxy win MLS Cup last season, but he also turned in the kind of performance that his coach, Oscar Pareja, hopes will help him turn the corner after starting the season with two goals in 15 games.
"Edson is getting fitter, and that helps. He understood [Saturday] was a big one, not that the other nights don't mean the same, but Edson [on Saturday] was special," Pareja said. "I know it was an emotional game for him. It was unlucky for him that he didn't score, because he had the chance, but Edson came up huge today for us. It was great for him."
While the Rapids are in the midst of a good run, Salt Lake is hoping Saturday's game can help the team snap a two-game losing skid.
Both losses came to quality teams in Sporting Kansas City and Red Bull New York, and both were decided by late goals for the opposition.
In the past two games, RSL has yielded six goals, with five of those coming on set pieces or penalty kicks, so it was no surprise that much of the focus in training this week was centered on those situations.
"Let's be honest. We've given up six goals [in the last two losses], and five of those have been set pieces or penalties," defender Nat Borchers said. "We are going to be able to fix those issues here in training. We are working on that this week. It is a huge opportunity this weekend to show we can do better in those things."
Salt Lake has also played the past few games without goalkeeper Nick Rimando, defender Tony Beltran and midfielder Kyle Beckerman, who were away on Gold Cup duty, so their return to the lineup will no doubt be a boost.