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May 17, 2024 8:40 pm

RSL, Rapids both on a roll entering Rocky Mountain Cup showdown

cristian arango

Real Salt Lake will host the Colorado Rapids on Saturday night in Sandy, Utah, for one of the most anticipated Rocky Mountain Cup clashes in recent memory given each side’s promising start.

Colorado (6-4-3, 21 points) won the teams’ initial meeting March 9 in a match also played in Utah. But that was before both sides emerged as genuine Western Conference contenders.

Salt Lake (7-2-4, 25 points) enters the weekend holding a four-point advantage over Colorado and three other teams atop the West, having gone nine matches without defeat since that 2-1 loss to the Rapids.

Cristian Arango continues to be the biggest threat to Miami’s Lionel Messi in the MLS MVP race with 11 goals and seven assists, the latter of which is already his MLS career high.

Meanwhile, Pablo Mastroeni has coached one of the best defenses in the league. RSL already have posted five clean sheets, with 21 matches remaining to beat their total of nine from last season.

“For us, the biggest challenge isn’t the opponents,” Mastroeni said. “It’s for us to be better than we were the game before. That’s what we talk about internally, and the guys are doing a great job with it.”

Colorado can earn its first Rocky Mountain Cup honor — the award bestowed to the winner of the regular-season rivalry series — since 2020 and only its third in the last decade with a second win in as many trips to Salt Lake.

In the first, Rafael Navarro scored from the penalty spot to level the match late in the first half, and Cole Bassett scored a second-half winner to give coach Chris Armas a 2-1 win over RSL, his first at the club helm.

Navarro leads Colorado with seven goals after again scoring from the spot in Wednesday’s 1-0 home win against 10-man Vancouver.

If the Rapids can’t earn a second away win, they can still take Rocky Mountain Cup honors in the series finale at home in July.

“I wish we were hosting this one,” Armas said. “This Rocky Mountain Cup is such an important cup to us as a team and to our fans. It would have been nice if maybe we played one on the road and then one at home, or one home and one on the road. To have the first two on the road, it’s tricky but that’s what it is.”

–Field Level Media

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