Rocky Mountain tilt crucial for Salt Lake

Johnson says team can't afford to slip in close race for Shield

LEHI, Utah – Friday night’s matchup between Los Angeles and New York is the marquee game for the league this week, no doubt about it. With names like Landon Donovan, David Beckham, Rafa Márquez and Juan Pablo Angel, how could it not be?

However, on Saturday, in a very appealing match lost in all the hype that is the DP-war, is the tilt between Real Salt Lake and Colorado. No, it may not feature the big names that carry the same star power, but the crucial game for the Rocky Mountain rivals very well may exhibit some of the best players in the league at the moment.

“The game [Saturday] is massive,” said RSL midfielder Will Johnson about their match vs. Colorado. “We can’t afford to slip up tomorrow in the race for the Supporters’ Shield.”

MATCH PREVIEW: Real Salt Lake vs. Colorado

Real Salt Lake currently trail the Galaxy by three points in the race for the Shield, and players and coaches alike admit they’ll have an eye on this week’s “Game of the Season,” even if it’s their own battle on which they are focused.

“We want to be in a spot where if [Los Angeles] slip up, we’re right there to take it from them,” said Johnson. “There are only five games left, so we need to make sure that we keep pace. If we drop points and [LA] get a win, and it opens up to more than a three point gap, then we can write off the Supporters’ Shield.”

The Rapids possess quite possibly the best strike duo in the league at the moment. Both Conor Casey and Omar Cummings have scored 10 goals this season. Unfortunately for the Rapids, Cummings stayed behind in Colorado to rest up his sprained left ankle. Ready to take his spot, however, is new acquisition Macoumba Kandji.

No matter which attacking tandem starts for Colorado, Real Salt Lake will be looking to continue their current dominance over their Rocky Mountain counterparts.

In recent years, Real Salt Lake have often gotten the better of Colorado. In 2007, RSL emerged victorious in a game late in the season, and ended up knocking the Rapids out of the playoff picture. A year later, Yura Movsisyan’s late equalizer in Colorado vaulted RSL into the playoffs, again at the expense of the Rapids.

Last year, the Rapids visited Rio Tinto Stadium holding the edge in the playoff race, but Salt Lake came out in top in that one. That win catapulted RSL into the playoffs, where their magical run took them to the peak while Colorado once again sat on the sidelines of postseason action.

Johnson doesn't think any of this is lost on the Rapids organization.

“They’ve had some poor results against us the past couple of years, and if I was them, I’d be out for a little bit of revenge," the Canadian international said. "I’m sure they are going to come in fired up."