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RSL vs. Colorado Rapids: Three things to watch

MLS: Real Salt Lake at Colorado Rapids Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports

Real Salt Lake starts off a bitter rivalry week by taking on the Colorado Rapids. This game not only has implications on who will take the Rocky Mountain Cup home but it also influences the Western Conference standings.

With just 8 games left in the season, every point is crucial, especially points at home. Here are three things to watch for during Friday night’s game.

No Beltran, no problem?

Tony Beltran will be suspended in the upcoming game against the Rapids for yellow card accumulation. That will not be a problem. Chris Wingert will most likely get the nod to start on Friday’s match. He normally plays at left back, but he has said in the past that he prefers to play on the right side. Will his partnership with probable starter Jamison Olave be sharp? The Rapids could try and expose that new partnership from the opening whistle, but if they are on the same page defensively, they should be able to deal with the Rapids’ forwards.

Tim Howard’s presence

Real Salt Lake takes on the 2nd ranked team in the league and a big reason for it has been the acquisitions of Jermaine Jones and Tim Howard. RSL has faced and has won and lost a game against the Rapids but this time they bring a new play in front of the goal: Tim Howard. In his first few weeks back in MLS, Howard has had his share of phenomenal saves and with RSL’s front three struggling in finding the back of the net, will they have a harder time this Friday?

Javi magic

RSL has left quite a few points on the table but still remain in the top 3 spots in the West and 5 overall in the league with only a 5 point difference between them and FC Dallas. The team will need to play lights out on Friday night in front of a home crowd at the RioT. But, the one player that needs to play on point: Javier Morales. The 36 year old, attacking midfield player needs to control the flow of the game. He plays a hybrid 10 position but RSL’s game-plan goes through Javi. The attack will need to be dynamic and there will need to be pressure put on the backline of the Rapids to have a chance to put the ball in the back of the net and that will start from the midfield with Morales.

Rivalry week kicks off with one of the best rivalries in MLS — one that is starting to get more and more heated with every encounter.