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RSL vs. Colorado preview: More at stake than Rocky Mountain Cup

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The Rocky Mountain Cup takes a back seat as major playoff implications are on the line when the Colorado Rapids visit Rio Tinto Stadium.

MLS: Real Salt Lake at Colorado Rapids Chris Humphreys-USA TODAY Sports

Riding high from a massive 4-0 win over the San Jose Earthquakes earlier this week, Real Salt Lake will play host to Rocky Mountain Cup rivals Colorado Rapids in the second of a two-game home stand.

While the Rocky Mountain Cup itself is on the line, there’s so much more to be played for in this game. Desperately needing another three points to stay relevant in the playoff conversation, RSL will look to dismantle their bottom-of-the-table foes and keep pace with San Jose and Vancouver.

With a 2-1 victory for RSL earlier this year, if they should come out on top in this match, they’ll secure the Rocky Mountain Cup for the ninth time in 13 years, clearly dominating their rivals over the course of their MLS history.

Yura Movsisyan is tied with Alvaro Saborio for the most goals scored in RMC matches, both with five apiece. After breaking a long scoring drought against San Jose, Yura could take lone control of that record on Saturday if things go well.

Real Salt Lake

Record: 9-13-5 (32 points)
Table: 8th place (west), 15th place (overall)
Points per game: 1.19 (17th in MLS)
Most goals: Yura Movsisyan (7)
Most assists: Albert Rusnak (10)

MLS: San Jose Earthquakes at Real Salt Lake Jeff Swinger-USA TODAY Sports

Goals, goals, goals

RSL put on a finishing clinic (finally) against San Jose as they banged four into the back of the net, with another three shots kept out by the post. Luis Silva continued his great form as he bagged his third goal in as many games, bringing his tally to four on the season.

Late-game sub Movsisyan even scored his first goal in six weeks to bring his season total to seven, enticing fans to wonder if it’s something that he can continue even with the limited minutes he’s been getting while playing second fiddle to Silva.

Albert Rusnak put on a show against the Earthquakes also, notching one goal and two assists in what was one of his best performances of the season so far.

Playoff implications

RSL could really, really use the full three points from this game, as every game from here on out has become virtually vital. Currently sitting three points back from sixth-place Vancouver, and one point behind seventh-place San Jose, both teams have games in hand on RSL and could easily pull way ahead if they were to win those extra matches.

With only seven games left in the season, it’s still entirely possible that RSL could squeak into the playoffs — especially with teams like FC Dallas, who are on a five-game winless streak, in their sights.

Forging ahead, sans captain

Kyle Beckerman received his eighth yellow card of the season after he was blown for a foul on Quincy Amarikwa Wednesday night, so RSL will have to take down Colorado without their captain, as he’ll be forced to sit this one out due to yellow card accumulation.

It’s likely that we’ll see a holding midfield pairing of Sunny and Luke Mulholland. There’s also a decent chance that new signing Nick Besler will see his first minutes in an RSL uniform, as he would be the next logical choice for a defensive-minded substitute in the midfield.

In regards to the backline, it remains to be seen whether center-back Marcelo Silva will be available for this game, as he was kept out of the lineup on Wednesday due to a hamstring injury he suffered early on in Montreal last week.

Colorado Rapids

Record: 6-14-4 (22 points)
Table: 10th place (west), 21st place (overall)
Points per game: 0.92 (T-21st in MLS)
Most goals: Dominique Badji (6)
Most assists: Dominique Badji (5)

MLS: Colorado Rapids at Portland Timbers Troy Wayrynen-USA TODAY Sports

Struggle city

What is there to be said about Colorado’s 2017 season? After an impressive defensive display in 2016 that saw them finish the regular season in second place, they’ve done a complete 180 this year and now sit in second-to-last place, tied on points with Minnesota United. The only thing that separates them from last place is Minnesota’s -21 goal differential, which is slightly worse than Colorado’s -11.

It seems as though the wheels have completely fallen off the wagon in Commerce City, as they just fired their head coach and Director of Mustache, Pablo Mastroeni, while naming Steve Cooke as his interim replacement.

The Rapids have yet to win a game on the road this season as they’ve gone 0-9-2, salvaging just two points from all 11 games played away from Dick’s Sporting Goods Park on the year. Even Tim Howard can’t save Colorado’s season, no matter how much they stock they’ve seemed to put in the idea.

No answers

While they do have a couple players who have the ability to score goals, none of them seem to be producing much, while DP Shkelzen Gashi only has two on the season and their leading scorer is youngster Dominique Badji with six.

Now riding a seven-game winless streak, they haven’t won since their 3-1 result on July 1 against the Houston Dynamo, and have only managed to score six goals in the seven games since then.

It’s clear that at this point, players will be fighting for their jobs as they close out what’s turned out to be an abysmal season.


Leading scorers

RSL: Yura Movsisyan (7), Joao Plata (6), Albert Rusnak (6), Jefferson Savarino (4), Luis Silva (4), Kyle Beckerman (3)

COL: Dominique Badji (6), Kevin Doyle (5), Marlon Hairston (3)

Absences

RSL
OUT: Jordan Allen (knee), Chad Barrett (knee), Omar Holness (knee), Ricardo Velazco (ankle/MLS suspension), Kyle Beckerman (yellow card accumulation)
QUESTIONABLE: Matt Van Oekel (ankle), Demar Phillips (hamstring), Marcelo Silva (hamstring)

COL
OUT: Bobby Burling (foot), Zac MacMath (torn meniscus)

Expected lineups

RSL: Rimando; Beltran, Glad, Horst, Wingert; Sunny, Mulholland; Savarino, Rusnak, Plata; L Silva

COL: Howard; Miller, Watts, Sjoberg, Hairston; Boateng, Saeid, Azira; Gashi, Doyle, Badji

Match info

When: Saturday, August 26, 8:00PM MT

Where: Rio Tinto Stadium — Sandy, UT

Weather: 73 degrees, clear skies

Broadcast: KMYU, ESPN 700 (radio), MLS Live

Referee: Armando Villarreal (2017: 13 games, 41 yellow cards, 2 red cards, 2 penalties given)