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Match preview: Colorado Rapids vs. Real Salt Lake

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Real Salt Lake has a great chance to lock up the Rocky Mountain Cup and stay in the Western Conference’s top four as they travel to take on the Colorado Rapids.

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

Real Salt Lake has a chance to not only grab their third road win on the season — which would be two in a row after last week’s late 2-1 win in Houston — but they also have the opportunity to secure the Rocky Mountain Cup for the 10th time in 14 years as they travel to Colorado to take on the Rapids for the third and final time this season.

RSL handily won the first meeting between the sides back on April 21 at home by a score of 3-0, thanks to goals from Joao Plata, Damir Kreilach, and Albert Rusnak, continuing their absolute dominance over the Rapids at home, who haven’t won in Utah since 2007.

On August 21, the Rapids came back to Rio Tinto Stadium again and things didn’t quite go as well as planned this time around, as Dillon Serna sent in an 88th-minute equalizing goal to secure a point for the Rapids just as they thought their fate was sealed.

Real Salt Lake

Record: 11-10-5 (38 points)
Table: 4th place (west), 8th place (overall)
Points per game: 1.46 (T-9th in MLS)
Most goals: Joao Plata (7), Albert Rusnak (7)
Most assists: Jefferson Savarino (7)
Clean sheets: 6
Form: DWDLW

MLS: Real Salt Lake at Houston Dynamo Thomas B. Shea-USA TODAY Sports

Finally, a win on the road

It still feels weird to say — RSL got a big 2-1 win on the road last week, just their second of the season. Now finishing up a three-game road trip in Colorado, they'll look to build on the momentum of Rusnak’s two stoppage time goals and steal a full three points again this weekend.

Sitting in fourth place in the west — the highest we’ve seen them all year — another win this week wouldn’t put them any higher in the standings, but would potentially bring them within one point of third- and second-place LAFC and Sporting Kansas City, respectively, who both sit at 42 points at the moment. Suddenly, the focus may have shifted from making the playoffs to reaching for second place to miss the dreaded wildcard play-in round.

Rocky Mountain Cup on the line

RSL has a pretty clear shot at winning the supporter-created Rocky Mountain Cup this week, as a win, a draw, or a loss by 2 or less would seal the deal. A three-goal loss wouldn’t technically be a Cup “win” but RSL would retain the cup, since they were last year’s winners. The only way the Cup could be won by Colorado is if they win by four goals, which, let’s be honest, isn’t going to happen.

Injuries piling on

With the recent injuries to Nick Rimando and Marcelo Silva, the injury report list is just getting longer and longer for RSL. Andrew Putna has done a great job stepping in for Rimando over the last game and a half, and we’d expect to see him start again this week given Rimando’s questionable injury status.

Add Pablo Ruiz to that list as well, as he’s been listed as questionable following his early injury in Houston that forced Petke to bring on Rusnak a little earlier than he had planned.

Colorado Rapids

Record: 6-13-6 (24 points)
Table: 11th place (west), 20th place (overall)
Points per game: 0.96 (T-20th in MLS)
Most goals: Edgar Castillo (3), Tommy Smith (3)
Most assists: Edgar Castillo (5)
Clean sheets: 4
Form: LWWDL

MLS: Colorado Rapids at Los Angeles FC Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Personnel rotation

While Colorado recently sent away their top scorer in Dominique Badji to FC Dallas, they received young USMNT player Kellyn Acosta in return, who already has two goals for the club and continues to add a much-needed spark to the Rapids’ attack.

Since Acosta joined, they’ve only been shut out one time while racking up two wins in the process.

They also recently lost forward Joe Mason, whose loan to Colorado ended, so he went back overseas and is currently playing for the Wolverhampton Wanderers.

Playoffs are still a long shot for the Rapids as they sit 12 points below the red line, but it’s not mathematically impossible at this point.

Makings of a winless streak

Regardless of their recent attacking surge with Kellyn Acosta, they’re now winless in two as they scraped by with a 2-2 draw against the LA Galaxy followed by a 2-0 loss again in LA against LAFC. A third draw or loss would certainly not help their cause.

Bad cup form

The Rapids have only won the Rocky Mountain Cup four times, the last instance being in 2015 when they barely grabbed it due to winning the goal differential tiebreaker. Aside from that, their only other wins were in 2013, 2006, and 2005.

Either way it’ll be a battle as it’s impossible to predict who’s going to win and by how much. We all know there have been some pretty wild results between RSL and Colorado, and this week has the potential to be yet another one.


Absences

Real Salt Lake
OUT: Tony Beltran (knee), Jordan Allen (knee), Alex Horwath (achilles surgery), David Horst (torn achilles; out for season), Luke Mulholland (back), Ricky Lopez-Espin (knee), Connor Sparrow (knee), Luis Silva (groin)
QUESTIONABLE: Nick Rimando (hamstring), Pablo Ruiz (knee), Marcelo Silva (ankle)

Colorado Rapids
OUT: Axel Sjoberg (knee)
QUESTIONABLE: Sam Nicholson (undisclosed injury)

Expected lineups

RSL: Putna; Lennon, Besler, Glad, Herrera; Kreilach, Beckerman; Savarino, Rusnak, Plata; Baird

COL: Howard; Ford, Wilson, Smith, Castillo; Acosta, Price, Blomberg; Serna; McBean, Nicholson

Match info

When: Saturday, August 25, 7:00PM MT

Where: Dick’s Sporting Goods Park — Commerce City, CO

Weather: 81 degrees, cloudy

Broadcast: KMYU, KSL TV app (streaming), ESPN+ (streaming), ESPN700 (radio)

Referee: Ted Unkel