Real Salt Lake look to secure 2016 RMC at Colorado – Match Preview

I really haven’t considered the Colorado Rapids much of a rival over the last few years as they have struggled to be competitive in both the league and Rocky Mountain Cup. Last year the Rapids won the RMC for the first time in 6 years, but still finished as the bottom team in the Western Conference. So on Saturday, RSL will start their first of 5 straight on the road at Colorado, where a win would move them to the top of MLS as well securing the 2016 version of the RMC.

If you had picked RSL and Colorado to be at the top of the Western Conference after 8 matches, well you probably also had Leicester City picked to win the EPL back in August of last year.  OK maybe it isn’t that big of a longshot, but clearly both sides have found their form quickly in 2016, so this match should be an exciting one.  The RSL offense is one of the top in MLS with 14 goals scored, while the Rapids have one of the best defenses with just 8 goals allowed in their first 9 matches. RSL holds the all time lead between the two sides with a 14-11-10 record, and RSL has 4 wins and 5 draws vs the Rapids on the road including a 1-0 win in 2014.

Early on in the season it was Marco Pappa pulling the strings for the Rapids but he has been out a couple weeks with an injury, but several others have stepped up.  First of them is Jermaine Jones who has served his suspension and in his 3 matches back he has 2 goals and 2 assists. There is also their new DP Shkelzen Gashi, who also has 2 goals and 2 assists this season.  It is started to become clear last year with the signing of Kevin Doyle, that the Rapids were starting to take things a bit more seriously.  The question is will their fans notice or care?  Attendance is still barely averaging 14,000 and if you have seen there games you know that is being very generous.

So what will RSL need to do in order to get a result in Colorado?

When RSL picked up their 1-0 win over the Rapids 2 months ago, it was a match were Colorado actually had more shots than RSL but it was a 72nd minute goal by Joao Plata that was the game winner.  We could see Plata return to the lineup on Saturday, which could provide a nice spark to kick off the road trip.

Keys to the match:

  • Beware the speed and counter – Gashi is really quick and will look to get behind out midfield and defenders, we will need to pay close attention to him as well as Luis Solignac who has played very well this year.
  • Control the midfield – the matchup between Kyle Beckerman and Jermaine Jones should be entertaining. Sam Cronin and Micheal Azira on the Rapids side, along with Javier Morales and Sunny on the RSL side will provide even more to keep your eyes on in the midfield. A week healthier, both Javi and Sunny looked good last weekend and should be better this weekend.
  • Save Rimando – after a match last week where Nick Rimando again had to make some huge saves, it would be nice if RSL could limit the opportunities that Colorado gets to make him have to work. Last time around the Rapids got off 14 shots and forced Nick to make 5 saves, but nothing got back Rimando as he picked up another clean sheet.

Getting points on the road is huge and RSL has played well on the road this year, this is a match that will likely be decided in the second half, where RSL has scored 7 of their 12 and allowed 9 of their 14 goals so far this season and the rapids have allowed 7 of their 8 and scored 8 of their 12 goals this season. RSL have scored first in 6 of their 8 matches, but have won both of the matches in which they have given up the first goal. As the Rapids have found more offense, 9 goals in their last 4 matches they have also given up 5 and the RSL offense has a ton of weapons with or without Plata. I think this one is probably a fairly entertaining 1-1 draw.

That’s How I See It

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