Rocky Mountain Cup Preview: Three Things To Watch For

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COMMERCE CITY, CO - OCTOBER 4: Juan Manuel Martinez (22) of Real Salt Lake tries to defend the ball from Lucas Pittinari (22) of Colorado Rapids during the first half October 4, 2015 at Dick's Sporting Goods Park. Colorado Rapids play Real Salt Lake for the Rocky Mountain Cup. (Photo by Brent Lweis/The Denver Post via Getty Images)

Editorial (April 15, 2017) – The Colorado Rapids take on Real Salt Lake tonight at Dick’s Sporting Goods Park. It is the first Rocky Mountain Cup match of 2017. Here’s three things to watch for in this highly anticipated match.

Rocky Mountain Cup Preview: Three Things To Watch For

Defense For The Rapids:

Colorado had an abysmal match last weekend against Sporting Kansas City. The defense had a rough go of it. Pablo Mastroeni’s side clearly missed Sam Cronin and Marc Burch. Whoever plays at left back will need to be better tonight. Nana Boateng and Michael Azira need to have a better game together in the middle.

The Rapids also had a last minute complication. Tim Howard was suspended by the league late this week. Zac MacMath will step in. This looks like the first #NextManUp situation for Colorado. Kortne Ford will need to be better or Bobby Burling in his place. They still haven’t gotten a good performance from a right back this season.

We’ll have to see if Colorado can get back to a full 90 minute performance defensively.

Mike Petke’s Side Under Normal Conditions:

RSL got a much needed win last weekend, 3-0 over the Vancouver Whitecaps. Still, they didn’t start scoring till the snow built up. I don’t take too much stock from anything that happens in wacky weather conditions, for or against. It’s a sunny weekend in Denver. We’ll have to see if RSL can create offense under normal conditions.

The Rapids showed they have some weaknesses on the flanks. We’ll see what Joao Plata can do with his speed. Albert Rusn├ík against Boateng should be an interesting match up to watch.

Salt Lake was also able to take advantage of a physically and emotionally drained Vancouver team who had been eliminated from CONCACAF Champions League midweek. Colorado might be equally shaken from their last game, but they’ve had a week. Furthermore, they’re accustomed to altitude. DSG Park about 700 ft higher in elevation to Rio Tinto Stadium.

It will be interesting to see how Petke’s team plays in their first game on the road in normal conditions.

Revenge Factor:

For the first time in recent memory last year, the Rapids were competitive with RSL both in the table and for this trophy. Still, Salt Lake has won the trophy eight of the twelve years it has existed. Colorado had a chance to win it outright (no tie breakers needed) last season, but let it slip through their fingers.

Mastroeni’s team showed up big last season after big losses. We’ll have to see if they can do it this year, in the context of last weekend and last year’s Rocky Mountain Cup.

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