SALT LAKE CITY — Real Salt Lake is set to square off against the Colorado Rapids in a rivalry that is as intense as any in Major League Soccer.
It's a rivalry that has been defined by bitter feelings between the fans, some fights, but most of all some very well-played and intense games. The Rapids dominated the series early, but RLS has recently taken control, retaining the Subaru Rocky Mountain Cup over the past five years.
While the rivalry has always been one embraced by the fans, the players and coaches follow suit.
"For me, this one always carries a little extra weight and I think that's a good thing," said coach Jason Kreis. "It's not something that we should shy away from or be embarrassed about — certainly it's just three points and it's not like it's a cup final for us, but it's Colorado and it is in our building."
Real Salt Lake enters the match on top of the Western conference with a 4-0-1 record and 12 points, but with a lot of to improve on. Although they won their last match against Montreal 1-0, coaches and players know they'll need a much better effort to come out with a victory against Colorado.
"I think we're searching for consistency right now," said defender Nat Borchers, "I think we just want to put together a good 90 minutes on both sides of the ball — we can't fall asleep on set pieces and we want to make sure we maintain that possession."
The Rapids own a 3-0-1 (9 points) record under new head coach Oscar Pareja, who has changed up some things that Real isn't readily familiar with. Pareja, like Kreis, starred as a player in the MLS before taking his head coaching assignment and bringing a lot of his playing style to the way he coaches.
"It's a little too early to tell. … but I can see what he's after," said Kreis. "It's typical of the way he played. He wants to keep the ball and establish a rhythm in the game — it looks like he's pressing teams on their half of the field, so I'm excited about what that could mean here. I think it could be a great spectacle and a great game."
INJURY UPDATE: Real suffered two big injuries during their win against Montreal with Javier Morales suffering a hamstring injury and Ned Grabavoy a dislocated rib. Both injuries have been reevaluated with both apparently not as bad as previously believed.
"We're hoping, but it's one of those things you have to let time play and see how bad it really is," said Kreis about the injuries. "Ned didn't break a rib and didn't burst a spleen, so that's the good news, and Javier's hamstring pull wasn't as bad as we thought it may have been."
RSL on the air
Colorado Rapids (3-0-1, 9 pts)
at Real Salt Lake (4-0-1, 12 pts)
Saturday April 7th, 7 p.m.
Rio Tinto Stadium
TV: CW30 Radio: 700AM