Well it is the busiest time of year at work for me, and for the second straight year it matches up with the RSL home opener. Still how can you not be excited for the first home match of the season? Then add in it is a Rocky Mountain Cup match, and the only one that will be at Rio Tinto this year, so the stakes for the team and fans are huge. It is nice to see that RSL was smart enough to schedule an early start time to take advantage of the daylight hours early when the weather conditions can still be a big issue. I expect it will probably be a sell out or close to it, which should make for a great way to kick of what I think will be a huge home season for RSL this year. So all that being said, let’t talk about the match.
Lovel Palmer – One of the real high spots for me in the DC United match last weekend was the energy and effectiveness that Lovel had on both sides of the ball when he came on. With Abdoulie Mansally suspended for the match, we could see Palmer put into the starting lineup and even if not, I expect that with how he showed last weekend that we will see him at some point during the match. The RMC matches are a tough one to make your starting debut for RSL, but maybe it could be the start of something great for RSL & Lovel Palmer.
Kyle Beckerman – The only player who has never lost the Rocky Mountain Cup will be in his normal place at the back of the diamond for RSL on Saturday, Kyle won two RMC’s with the Rapids, and now six with RSL. It is a testament to Kyle’s physical and mental toughness, as well as his never say die attitude on the pitch that had him go from hated rival to one of the most beloved players in RSL history. It is only fitting that Kyle is the player featured on the home opener ticket. I expect another classic performance from Kyle.
Luis Gil – The off-season was very good to Luis Gil, not only does he continue to grow physically (taller and stronger) but he continues to grow as a player due to his time with the US U-20 squad. He was one of the guys who was able to make a real difference in the CONCACAF qualifying and I expect when the U-20 World Cup is held this summer he will continue to show well as one of the leaders of the US team. In the two RSL matches since he returned, he has looked a bit stronger and faster than last year, it appears that his confidence both in himself and his teammate is also higher than in the past. Now it is time for Luis to step up and produce, and what better time than when facing the Rapids.
Edson Buddle – While he may be a new Rapid, and he may or may not be able to go on Saturday, he has been a RSL killer in the past. With just 14 matches played against RSL, just a total of 922 minutes against RSL, he has scored 10 goals against RSL, those are fairly amazing numbers. Buddle, is an interesting case study for MLS, he has been hot, then cold, fit, then injured, he left on a high note and came back on a low note. Still if you get past the injury issues, you end up with a player who has been very good when he gets minutes. I have to believe that if he wants to make a positive impression on his new team he might get some minutes on Saturday, but I won’t be disappointed if he doesn’t.
Matt Pickens – One of the few players who has more than a couple of seasons with the Rapids, he has faced RSL 11 times and has an impressive 0.82 GAA against us. He is one of those prototypical keeper types at 6’3″ and he has provided a great deal of consistency in back for Colorado. Still one has to ask what is up with that beard? I mean honestly? While Pickens is a quality keeper we have to remember that in his only start of the year, he gave up two goals to the Philadelphia Union in the Rapids home opener last weekend.
Marvell Wynne – He is one of those types of defenders that people either love or hate, for me I have listed him as the player on the Rapids I would pick for RSL. I like his speed, and while he may not be the most technical guy on the pitch, he has a work rate that is top rate. It seems after bouncing around the Eastern Conference a bit that he has found a home in Colorado as he resigned with the team this off-season. He is a durable player, having started at least 20 matches each of the last 6 seasons, and 25 or more each of the last three. It will be interesting to see how me matches up against our outside backs who will be tasked with going forward to spark the offense.
Injuries and Suspensions for RSL vs. Returning Stars for the Rapids – With RSL still waiting for Nat Borchers, Chris Wingert, and Javier Morales to return to the lineup, depth will be tested even further as Abdoulie Mansally was handed down a one match suspension from the MLS Disciplinary Committee today. This means that RSL will likely be forced to start Lovel Palmer will join our backline, which will force guys to adjust one more time to a change. The Rapids on the other hand could be getting two big players back as rumors are that either/both Edson Buddle and Danny Mwanga could be ready for action on Saturday. Of course it is unlikely that Pablo Mastroeni will be able to go on Saturday as he pulled a hamstring last weekend, which is a shame as he missed so much action last year with injuries. One thing is for sure, doesn’t matter who plays, the action will likely be very intense.
Domination- I can’t kid you, this rivalry really has lost some of it’s attraction to me. First no longer the match to end out the regular season, but beyond that the complete domination of the series in recent years by RSL just makes this seem like a gimme. RSL has won the Rocky Mountain Cup the last 6 seasons, remember we have only been in the league for 8. In the last 4 seasons the teams have faced off a total of 10 times, the Rapids have two victories. RSL had that many last year alone. In the last 5 matches the Rapids have scored a total of 1 goal, RSL has scored 5, in winning 3 of the last 5 to a single victory for the Rapids. Oh I know the Rapids are rebuilding, RSL is missing key players, blah, blah, blah, even with 2 of the 3 matches this year being played in Colorado, RSL is likely going to still dominate this series.
So here we go, the start of the RSL home season, the start of the Rocky Mountain Cup 2013 edition, it is the very best time of the year. We know that this match means a lot to most fans, it means a lot to the players and staff, so expect a very loud, very full, very amped crowd on Saturday. The early start time means we should have great conditions for the match, I expect that we will see the Rapids look to bunker in and hope to spring Desorn Brown over the top, or maybe find Atiba Harris on the outside to create a chance. RSL will need to be patient and wait for their chances, but I do think those chances will come so it will come down to finishing. Could this be the match we see Robbie Findley reopen his RSL scoring account? He does have 3 goals in 376 minutes against the Rapids. I think RSL is able to pick up a 2-0 win over the Rapids, and don’t be surprised if this match doesn’t end up 11 vs 11 or with a PK call, as the action will likely be heated.
That’s How I See It