Real Salt Lake-Rapids Preview
Playoff participation and dominance over Colorado have been staples for Real Salt Lake for nearly a decade.
If either is to continue this season, Jeff Cassar’s club needs a road win over the Rapids on Sunday night.
Salt Lake (10-12-8) has won the Rocky Mountain Cup in seven of the last eight seasons and qualified for the playoffs the last seven years, but the outlook is bleak for either to happen this season.
RSL enters four October matches ahead of only Colorado (8-12-10) in the Western Conference standings with 38 points, though it’s not out of the question that it could sneak into the sixth spot.
Those chances took a hit in last Sunday’s 1-0 loss at San Jose, one of the teams Salt Lake will likely need to pass. Real had won three of its previous four matches to get its name back in the discussion. The loss came in particularly deflating fashion as the Earthquakes scored in the 87th minute to deny RSL a point.
If the club can get by Colorado, it’ll return home for two games against Portland and Dallas before concluding the season in Seattle.
"Of course, you want to win every game but we’re not out of it," captain Kyle Beckerman told the league’s official website. "We still got a chance. Just got to win next week and that’ll put us in a better chance for the next week. We just got to keep going.
"I think tonight was probably a 0-0, 1-0 type game. Didn’t go our way, but I feel like we’re not out of it yet and we’re going to keep fighting until the end."
Javier Morales missed the match with a hip flexor injury, but the midfielder could return after he was hurt in a Sept. 24 CONCACAF Champions League match.
With Morales on the field, Salt Lake has a four-match unbeaten streak with three wins spanning both competitions. The playmaker has two goals and four assists in that time, as well as three goals and two assists in his last five against the Rapids.
Real needs to win by at least two to match the Rapids in aggregate and retain the rivalry cup. The clubs played to a scoreless draw at Salt Lake on June 7 before the Rapids won 3-1 at home July 11, but RSL won all three matches last season by an 8-2 aggregate.
The cup is all Colorado has to play for at this point. A three-match winning streak to conclude August had given the Rapids some life, but they’ve since gone 0-3-1 with nine goals conceded. They fell 3-2 in Houston on Sept. 26 but now return home with a three-match home unbeaten streak.
"We’ve got the Rocky Mountain Cup at stake here, something to fight for," coach Pablo Mastroeni said. "Make sure we come out with the right attitude and we’ve got a lot of work to do on the defensive end of the ball, but I was pleased with some of the forward play, so just finding ways to bring those two together and get a good performance for our fans."
Real is 3-10-2 on the road with three points out of its last 10 matches and a minus-15 goal differential.