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Chris Kamrani
Chris Kamrani covers Real Salt Lake for the Tribune.

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New-look Rapids figure to cause same old problems for RSL in midfield

It's what they call a "six-pointer" for RSL this weekend — a game against a close rival in which a victory can put extra distance between them in the standings, even though it's early in the season.

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But coach Jason Kreis knows that when the Colorado Rapids visit Rio Tinto Stadium on Saturday, they will present a passel of challenges with what he views as a 4-5-1 formation that is "shaped a little differently" than the midfield-heavy formations that have sought to disrupt his team's passing game so far.

"That will present some problems for us," he said.

Players and coaches have talked a lot about having to deal with opponents who try to jam up the midfield, something RSL has seen in most of its games so far. And Kreis said the key is paying closer attention to where openings get created, and acting fast to take advantage.

"We have to find the spaces," he said. "And if we find the spaces, we need to make aggressive decisions to then get after them.

"If they want to put 10 players behind the ball — or 11, with the goalkeeper — it can make things difficult," he added. "But it doesn't mean we can't play. We can still play. We can find spaces. We just have to recognize where those spaces are and we have to recognize when we get there, that's when we need to raise our urgency level and get forward quickly."

While RSL tops the MLS Western Conference with 12 points from a 4-1-0 record, the Rapids are tied with San Jose for second place with nine points from a 3-1-0 record.

Forward Omar Cummings leads the Rapids with two goals, and has scored three times in 10 career games against RSL. New coach Oscar Pareja — a longtime former teammate of Kreis in Dallas — also has former RSL-Arizona Academy product Tony Cascio playing on the wing, and two new central midfielders in Jaime Castrillon and Martin Rivero.

"I think it's a completely different look Colorado Rapids" than in the past, Kreis said.

The Rapids' Pablo Mastroeni is still out, having suffered a recurrence of the concussion symptoms that have plagued him since a collision with RSL's Jamison Olave last October knocked him out of the last two regular-season games and the MLS Cup playoffs.

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