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MLS: Rocky Mountain Cup could ease sting for RSL

Published July 21, 2012 5:59 pm

Soccer • Winning the Rocky Mountain Cup could take some sting out of San Jose loss.
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2012, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

A trophy sure would ease the pain.

Real Salt Lake, winless in five of their last six, are fresh off one of the most embarrassing losses in franchise history — a 5-0 drubbing by MLS leader San Jose. Colorado's arrival on Saturday couldn't be better timed, a Rocky Mountain Cup ready for the taking.

Real already notched a win over the Rapids in April; another clinches a sixth straight cup, keeping it at Rio Tinto Stadium.

The past week's practices were filled with hard tackles and aggressive plays, and head coach Jason Kreis likes that just fine. With an 8 p.m. start against the rival Rapids — who are riding a three-game losing streak — he wanted to see his players show some fire.

"There's just something about wearing the two shirts and the fan bases," Kreis. "It doesn't matter whether or not if they have four or five new players. It's still Colorado versus Real Salt Lake, and it still means something to us."

Real Salt Lake (11-7-3, 36 points) has won the past five Rocky Mountain Cups, started by fans in 2005 as a reward for the winner of the interstate series. This time, however, the event will be without midfielder Kyle Beckerman. RSL's lone All-Star, who won two trophies with Colorado (7-12-1, 22 points), was suspended after incurring a red card in last week's blowout.

It's the latest loss for a roster that has been pockmarked for much of the season. Defender Nat Borchers (strained quad) and midfielder Ned Grabavoy (strained abductor) are both listed as probable after sitting out against San Jose, leaving defender Chris Schuler as the only roster member completely ruled out. Kreis said that Schuler, sidelined since May with a stress fracture in his left foot, is still weeks away from returning.

The relative improvement in health may be a boon for a side that has looked out of sorts lately. RSL, second in the MLS standings, still has a chance at the Supporters' Shield on paper. On the field, however, the chasm between the top two spots has grown with each goal Real allowed — 12 over their past six games.

"I have certainly beat myself up for it, trying to think about all the different things I can do and I come back to one conclusion: I don't think we need to do anything differently," Kreis said. "These guys know exactly what's asked of them.

"If a goal's scored, they can probably pick it out which guys didn't fully commit themselves to plays. They know everything about why they're not succeeding right now. At some point, it's up to them to say, 'OK, enough's enough.' "

Players have put on a stoic face as well — at least publicly. Always constant is the refrain of looking ahead to the next game.

"We're all perfectionists out here," said goalkeeper Nick Rimando. "We need to move forward. Having five goals pass me is definitely not something I want to see on a daily basis.

"You try to embrace it and [know] you're not gonna have that feeling again." —

RSL vs. Colorado Rapids

P Saturday at Rio Tinto Stadium, Sandy, 8 p.m.

TV • CW30

Radio • 700 AM, 1600 AM, 102.3 FM

Records • RSL 11-7-3 (36 points), Colorado 7-12-1 (22 points)

Series record • Tied 8-8-7

Last meeting • RSL 2, Colorado 0 (April 7)

About RSL • Real Salt Lake has won the past five Rocky Mountain Cups and is 5-2 in the series. The Cup's existence parallels that of the franchise. … RSL has a seven-game unbeaten streak against the Rapids. … All-Star Kyle Beckerman is suspended after incurring a red card in last Saturday's loss to San Jose. The 5-0 loss was the team's worst since 2006.

About the Rapids • Colorado has lost four straight, including a shutout against Vancouver on July 4. … Opponents over that stretch have a combined record of 25-37-25. … Goalkeeper Matt Pickens leads the MLS in saves (76), but ranks only ninth in save percentage (74).