Blog

Colorado Rapids

14 March 11:23 am

I'm convinced that true rivalries must have more than just a geographic component. There needs to be a strong element of competitiveness between the rivals, and the nail-biting nature of the games between Real Salt Lake and the Colorado Rapids have added to the richness of the Rocky Mountain Cup. There have been so many great moments in the Rocky Mountain Cup over the years; bulletin board material, last-minute game-winning goals, big-time saves, questionable calls, questionable no-calls, red cards, and skirmishes, just to name a few.

My favorite RMC moment – so far – was the RSL-Colorado game on Oct. 24, 2009, the final day of regular season play that year. It wasn't so memorable because of the game itself – RSL won 3-0 – but everything else that went on that night. Let me set the stage for you.

Going into the final day of the 2009 season, one playoff spot was up for grabs. As the day's games kicked off, that final spot belonged to none other than the Rapids who were sitting on 40 points. Right on their heels were FC Dallas, D.C. United, and Toronto FC, each with 39 points. RSL was the final team with a mathematical chance at the playoff spot with 37 points. In order for RSL to make the playoffs, they would need to leapfrog the three aforementioned teams and beat the Rapids. A win by either Dallas, D.C., or Toronto would automatically eliminate RSL.

That afternoon, before heading to Rio Tinto, RSL fans eagerly tuned into the early game on the East Coast: Toronto at New York. We were able to sit back and relax after not too long thanks to a brilliant showing by New York. The Red Bulls scored early and often, thrashing Toronto 5-0 to eliminate TFC from playoff contention at 39 points. One down, three to go.

Then it was off to Rio Tinto where, coincidentally, the final three games that would determine RSL's fate (Colorado at RSL, Dallas at Seattle, D.C. at Kansas City) all kicked off at roughly the same time. Facing a must-win situation, RSL came out flying. Robbie Findley hit pay-dirt twice in the first half hour, ending the drama early as it became apparent that Colorado didn't have the horses to equalize on this night. RSL went on to win 3-0, putting them level with Colorado at 40 points but ahead based on tiebreakers. Two down, two to go.

While RSL was putting a bow on their game, things were getting interesting elsewhere. Dallas gave us an early scare at Seattle when Atiba Harris put them up 1-0, but the expansion Sounders scored twice early in the second half and hung on to win, knocking Dallas out of playoff contention. Three down, one to go.

The D.C. at Kansas City game was going along fine at 1-1 with RSL owning the tiebreaker over D.C. Then suddenly, it looked like the clock had struck midnight and RSL would turn back into a pumpkin - Julius James put D.C. ahead in the 82nd minute. From then on it was all Kansas City on the offensive, but it appeared D.C. would hold on. At this point, almost every member of the media at Rio Tinto was ignoring the final minutes of RSL's win and we were all glued to the TV watching KC and D.C. Then, in second-half stoppage time, RSL got the miracle they needed - a controversial handball gave the Wizards a penalty on the last kick of the game. Claudio Lopez buried it, ending the match 2-2 and putting RSL through to the playoffs.

Without those four matches going exactly the right way, RSL would have watched the playoffs from the couch. Instead, they went on to win MLS Cup. It was a magical night all around, and it's officially my favorite Rocky Mountain Cup game of all time.

A former RSL beat reporter for multiple outlets, Jeremy Horton is a regular contributor to RealSaltLake.com and helps cover the team for ESPN 700 AM

12 March 11:06 am

Fantastic infographic from RSL's Ben Barnes detailing the history of the Rocky Mountain Cup Presented by Mark Miller Subaru ahead of the Claret-and-Cobalt's Saturday home opener at Rio Tinto Stadium against the Colorado Rapids. Check it out:



16 January 2:48 pm

The news of Robbie Findley's return to Real Salt Lake stirred up so many buried memories in my mind, so many classic moments. The hat-trick against Columbus, the brace against L.A. in his first RSL match, and of course the equalizer against L.A. in the 2009 MLS Cup all come to mind. But my "favorite Findley" moment is this one, his second goal in RSL's 3-0 win at Colorado in October 2009.

Two things make this goal special for me. First, after a beautifully-weighted long ball (attention: Andy Williams sighting here), Findley takes a touch that makes Preston Burpo look silly. Second, he seals the deal with a finish that's much tougher than it looks.

But perhaps the thing that most makes this moment stand out in my mind is not how special the goal was, but how typical it was for Robbie Findley in many ways. How many times did we see him score in situations like this: RSL with a one-goal lead, opponent trying to get forward to find the equalizer, Findley gets in behind the defense using his speed and puts one home? Having a player with his skill set was so useful for putting games away. The last couple of seasons it has felt to me like RSL has taken the lead in plenty of games but has been unable to extend that lead past a single goal, causing a few too many nervous moments late in games. A little bit of research yielded the following numbers: When Robbie Findley was with RSL, 60% of their wins came by margins of two goals or more. In the two seasons since he left, that number is a full 10% lower.

RSL could really use somebody who can hurt opponents who are tired late in matches and taking risks while they search for an equalizer. Let's hope Robbie can bring that element back to Real Salt Lake.

A former RSL beat reporter for multiple outlets, Jeremy Horton is a regular contributor to RealSaltLake.com and will cover the team for ESPN700 AM

07 August 12:33 pm

There’s no doubt that RSL turned in a lackluster offensive performance in last Saturday’s 1-0 loss at Colorado. The team looked tired, disjointed and struggled to create chances throughout, really only getting two good looks at goal in the entire match.

RSL’s biggest struggles came in the attacking third. Despite holding advantages in possession, total number of passes completed and percentage of passes completed across the entire field, RSL was completely outclassed in the final third, attempting and completing a fraction of the passes Colorado attempted and completed in the attacking area. 

Check out the below table for a more detailed look: 

  RSL Colorado
Possession 51.6% 48.4%
Passing stats - Entire field 334/420 293/409
Passing stats - Final third 27/51 76/115

On the surface, this might not make a whole lot of sense - Shouldn't RSL's advantages in possession, total number of passes completed and passing percentage lead to corresponding advantages in final third numbers? 

Well, no. Here's why: After scoring the first - and only - goal of the game in the 38th minute, Colorado - which had the possession advantage at halftime - backed off a bit. They allowed RSL to knock the ball around in the back, which boosted the Claret-and-Cobalt's possession number and improved the team's passing stats across the entire field. But by backing off, Colorado was able to maintain a tighter defensive shape in the final third. That compact shape made it hard for RSL to enter the attacking area (explaining the Utah side's low number of passes attempted in the final third) and, once they got there, made it difficult for the Claret-and-Cobalt to have success (explaining the team's poor passing conversion rate in the final third). 

Don't expect RSL to repeat last Saturday's poor final third performance in this weekend's match at Vancouver. The team wasn't quite right at Colorado, playing its third game in an eight day stretch which saw them make a midweek trip to Costa Rica. The players got a short break this week, taking Monday and Tuesday off before resuming training on Wednesday. That downtime should allow them to be both physically and mentally refreshed for the game at Whitecaps FC, something that should pay dividends at BC Place.

03 August 12:25 am

Although RSL has already secured the Subaru Rocky Mountain Cup for the 2012 season, the excitement is still not over, with the Claret-and-Cobalt having a chance to pull off their first-ever season sweep of the Rapids with a win at Dick’s Sporting Goods Park on Saturday.

Get reacquainted with the Rocky Cup ahead of this weekend’s match with this history of the rivalry:

2005: Current RSL color commentator Brian Dunseth notched the franchise’s first-ever home goal at its inaugural home match on April 16. Click here for ESPN SoccerNet recap.

Apr. 16: RSL 1-COL 0

Sept. 21: RSL 0-COL 2

Oct. 1: RSL 1-COL 2

Oct. 12: RSL 0-COL 1

Series Winner: Colorado Rapids

2006: After swapping players with Colorado, RSL benefits by acquiring FW Jeff Cunningham who helped the team with two goals and an assist in an impressive 4-1 win on August 9. Click here for Yahoo! Sports recap.

May 27: RSL 2-COL 2

June 9: RSL 0-COL 1

Aug. 9: RSL 4-COL 1

Sept. 2: RSL 0-COL 1

Series Winner: Colorado Rapids

2007: RSL wins the Cup for the first time. The peculiar May 10th match in this series resulted in MLS’ only ever draw by own-goals. Click here for ESPN SoccerNet recap.

April 30: RSL 0-COL 2

May 10: RSL 1-COL 1

Sept. 22: RSL 1-COL 0

Oct. 20: RSL 1-COL 0

Series Winner: Real Salt Lake

2008: The pivotal October 25 match saw RSL clinch both the Rocky Mountain Cup and a spot in the playoffs. Click here for highlights.

May 15: RSL 0-COL 2

Aug. 29: RSL 2-COL 0

Oct. 25: RSL 1-COL 1

Series Winner: Real Salt Lake

2009: RSL retains the Cup for the third straight time. The sides tied on points during the season series, but RSL retained the Cup because of the club’s higher series goal total. Watch Leo the Lion protect the 2009 Cup.

May 2: RSL 0-COL 2

June 6: RSL 1-COL 1

Oct. 24: RSL 3-COL 0

Series Winner: Real Salt Lake

2010: RSL scored stoppage-time goals to draw both games. DF Nat Borchers’ late heroics secured the point on Sept 25 and – after Colorado carried a 2-0 lead into stoppage time – FW Álvaro Saborίo’s dramatic brace gave RSL a tie on Oct. 23. Click here for highlights.

Sept. 25: RSL 1-COL 1

Oct. 23: RSL 2-COL 2

Series Winner: Real Salt Lake

2011: FW Fabian Espίndola’s stoppage-time goal on Apr. 13 would be the only tally of the 2011 series. Click here for highlights.

April 13: RSL 1-COL 0

Oct. 14: RSL 0-COL 0

Series Winner: Real Salt Lake

2012: RSL claimed the Cup for the sixth straight time with a 6-0 point advantage after two 2-0 home wins. Click here to watch July 21st highlights.

April 7: RSL 2-COL 0

July 21: RSL 2-COL 0

Aug. 4: ?

Series Winner: Real Salt Lake