Rapids-Real Salt Lake Preview
Real Salt Lake is unbeaten in eight home openers and owns an eight-match unbeaten run in Utah over the Colorado Rapids.
It figures to be a daunting task for the Rapids on Saturday as they try to avoid opening with three losses for the first time in the latest edition of this Rocky Mountain Cup rivalry.
Real Salt Lake (1-1-0) is 4-0-4 in home openers beginning with a 1-0 victory over Colorado in 2005. The Rapids have been outscored 13-2 in going 0-6-2 in their last eight visits to Utah, and the home team is 8-0-5 in the last 13 meetings in this series.
RSL has captured the Rocky Mountain Cup for six straight seasons, and expects extra intensity from Colorado as a result.
"Their fans have a huge chip on their shoulders for all the Rocky Mountain Cups we've won and what we've done in the past," Salt Lake defender Nat Borchers told his club's official website.
RSL took both home meetings last season 2-0 before Colorado (0-2-0) won 1-0 at home for coach Oscar Pareja's first victory in this series.
Pareja enters his second season well aware of the importance of this matchup.
"I felt it last year, with the fans," Pareja told the Rapids' official website. "And now that I've been here longer I know what it means, and the players know."
Pareja and the Rapids are looking for at least one point after opening with two losses for the first time since 1999. Colorado has yet to receive a goal from a starter, with substitute Jamie Smith recording its lone 2013 tally in Sunday's 2-1 home defeat to Philadelphia.
Forwards Edson Buddle and Danny Mwanga both could make their season debuts Saturday. Buddle has a knee injury while Mwanga should finally be available after being acquired Feb. 28 from Portland.
"To be honest, we need goals," Pareja said. "I'm just waiting on (Edson) to put his thumb up and he'll be ready to go."
Rapids captain Pablo Mastroeni's status is uncertain due to a left hamstring injury.
Real Salt Lake has a number of personnel issues, with Chris Wingert, Javier Morales and Borchers all out. Defender Abdoulie Mansally has been suspended by MLS for head-butting D.C. United midfielder Perry Kitchen in last Saturday's 1-0 road loss.
Coach Jason Kreis said before the season that he didn't expect RSL to get off to a strong start, with five of its first seven matches on the road. Kreis referred to the winless Rapids as a "dangerous opponent" this week.
Salt Lake was happy to gain a split of its first two on the road, with Alvaro Saborio scoring twice in a surprising 2-0 victory at San Jose in the opener.
Saborio had one goal in each victory over Colorado last season, with Nick Rimando posting two shutouts.
"We're excited, of course," Rimando said. "We get to open our stadium. I think our fans are really looking forward to playing a game in the stadium against our rivals. It's always a big one."