SANDY — It’s rivalry weekend at Rio Tinto Stadium.
Real Salt Lake takes on archrival Colorado tonight at 7 p.m., kicking off the three-match series that will determine the 2012 Rocky Mountain Cup.
“It seems like some crazy things happen during these games, so we’ve got to be on our toes,” RSL midfielder Kyle Beckerman, who played for the Rapids prior to being traded to Salt Lake. “We’ve got to be focused and just be ready for anything. No matter what happens during the game, we’ve got to keep going and keep going because we know things happen at the end of the games.”
The Rocky Mountain Cup has featured some stunning and dramatic finishes during its history, and most of those have favored Real Salt Lake. The Lions have won the Cup for five consecutive seasons, and are hoping to extend that run of dominance.
“I think the reason it’s such a good rivalry now is that the fans have taken it this far and taken it so seriously,” RSL defender Nat Borchers, another former Rapid who now suits for Real. “We enjoy how seriously both sides take it. We enjoy the banter they give us, and I’m sure their players enjoy the banter that our fans give them.
“I think the fact that we’ve been so successful the past few years (against Colorado) has definitely put a chip on their shoulder. It makes it that much more important for us that we keep this title.”
RSL carries a six-match unbeaten streak against the Rapids into tonight’s match and is 5-3-6 in the series during the last five seasons.
Perhaps one of the most exciting stats of the series is the fact that 19 of the 44 total goals scored in the seven-year series have come after the 75th minute, leading to some dramatic, shocking finishes.
None of those perhaps was wilder than RSL’s shocking 2-2 draw at Commerce City in 2010 when Alvaro Saborio scored a stoppage time brace to overturn an 0-2 deficit.
“Maybe it (the rivalry) got a little forced (at first),” Beckerman said. “At the time it started both clubs had no championships, and so that was kind of one of the things you could definitely fight for each year because there was a trophy out there.”
Real (4-1-0) equalled the best five-match start in franchise history with its 1-0 win over Montreal on Wednesday night at Rio Tinto Stadium, and looks to match last season’s 15 points from its first six matches when it takes the field tonight.
“I think I can say that a lot of things are just another game, but for me this one always carries a little extra weight,” RSL boss Jason Kreis said. “I think that’s a good thing. I don’t think we should shy away from that or be embarrassed about it. Certainly it’s just three points. I mean, I’m not going to make it like this is a cup final for us, but it is Colorado and it is in our building.”