Colorado is looking to lock up an MLS playoff berth. Real Salt Lake is seeking to win the Rocky Mountain Cup for the first time in franchise history.
Both desperately want to attain their respective goals, which should make for an intense regular season finale tonight at Dick's Sporting Goods Park.
"We don't want to go away empty-handed, even if it's something as little as the Rocky Mountain Cup, we'll take it," said RSL forward Alecko Eskandarian. "We know how much it means to this organization with the big rivalry, we definitely want to get something out of this season."
Oh yeah, and if those story lines aren't intriguing enough, it's also the final match of Eddie Pope's illustrious career, not to mention Kyle Beckerman's first visit to Colorado since being traded from the Rapids several months ago.
The Rocky Mountain Cup is awarded annually to the winner of the RSL-Rapids season series. In each of the last two seasons Colorado clinched the title at Rice-Eccles Stadium. With the season series knotted at 1-1-1, RSL will be looking to return the favor on the Rapids home field.
"The experimenting is over, we're going for the win," said RSL coach Jason Kreis following Monday's 1-0 loss to Houston.
Since being realistically eliminated from the playoffs over a month ago, Kreis vowed to reward some of his younger players with increased playing time with the senior squad. Players like Dustin Kirby, Kyle Brown, Chris Seitz and Jamie Watson have benefitted. Overall, Kreis says, he's been pleased with their performances.
Tonight, Kreis is going to start the 11 players he feels gives RSL the best opportunity at ending its disappointing season on a positive note.
"We're very focused on this last match, but I know for me it's been a very long frustrating year so I'm definitely looking forward to the offseason and getting a fresh start," said Eskandarian. "But with that said there's still a job to be done in this last game."
As for Colorado, it's seeking much more significant hardware.
Even though the Rapids are currently on the outside of the MLS playoff picture as the No. 9 seed, they only trail No. 7 and 8 seeds Kansas City and Chicago by two points. With a loss by either team, not to mention beating rival Salt Lake, the Rapids would claim one of the final playoff berths.
"There's that old adage, pull someone down with you," joked Kreis following RSL's final training session of the year on Friday. "It's a chance for us to reach up and grab someone and pull them down with us."
The fact it's Real's arch nemesis makes it all the more intriguing.
Colorado leads the all-time series between the regional rivals 6-3-2, including a 1-1 draw at Colorado back on May 10.
On the air
Real Salt Lake (5-15-9)
at Colorado (9-12-8)
Tonight, 7 p.m.
Dick's Sporting Goods Park