Friday, October 24, 2008

Rocky Mountain Cup: 2008

Rocky Mountain Cup: 2008

This is what Real Salt Lake and the Colorado Rapids will be battling for on Saturday. Who will garner posession of this hardware come Saturday night? Here are some of my thoughts:

Both teams have hurdles they have had to face this season. Colorado had turmoil during the first 2/3rds of the season as the "Clavijo watch" was often the most talked about aspect of the team. Real Salt Lake had to figure out who they were as a team and try to bring a whole host of new players together.

Both have had midfielders that they were counting on that disappointed. Christian Gomez was the big acquisition for the Colorado side and they were expected to mold their team around him. He has mostly seen the bench under Gary Smith as coach. Real Salt Lake had high hopes for Matias Cordoba, who Garth Lagerway explained was their most important off-season acquisition.

Both teams have had to figure out where their scoring was going to come from. As of late for RSL it's been Yura Movsisyan. For Colorado, it's been Conor Casey on the hot streak. Wildcards exist for both teams in the form of Fabian Espindola and Omar Cummings.

Dick's Sporting Goods Park isn't the overwhelming home field advantage that you think it might be, as Colorado has only logged a 7-5-2 record: tied for the 2nd most home loses in the league. Real Salt Lake despite only 2 wins and 3 ties on the road has played much better on the road in the last 1/3rd of the season. In their last 4 road games, they have 1 win, 2 ties and a loss. So in their past 4, they have acheived the result they need on Saturday 3 times. Still not stellar, but they have played much better than those results would indicate. A road game under pressure is hard to win, but this might be as decent of an opportunity for a road win as the team has had all season. Plus, the team only needs a draw.

Real Salt Lake has also had a habit of getting on the board first in road matches recently, scoring 1st in their last 6 away matches. Colorado has the worst record in the league after giving up the first goal.

In my book, Real Salt Lake is just playing much better soccer right now. Colorado has been the beneficiary of a few PK's recently, and a temporary resurgence in play by Conor Casey. They get great play from the wings, in Terry Cooke and Colin Clarke but they lack that strong creative force that was to be Gomez. Pablo is still around, and is a high quality player but has lost a little bit of the edge that he once had. He still can single handedly disrupt our attack. If he allows Javi to roam free its Game Over.

A question exists regarding the approach that the team will take. With only needing a draw and knowing the emotion that will exist in this one, the team could take an approach of sitting back initially and absorbing the home teams pressure. This just isn't Coach Kreis style. The one time he tried this during this season was for Toronto's home opener at the start of the season and that one went badly.

My prediction: 2-1 Real Salt Lake victory. Retention of the Rocky Mountain Cup, and the teams first ever playoff game a week from tomorrow.