When Real Salt Lake and the Colorado Rapids get together, two things are certain: hard fouls and controversy.
A few highlights from Saturday’s match:
- Luis Zapata with a heavy check on Alvaro Saborio from behind.
- Saborio stiff-arming a pesky Kosuke Kimura during an attack on goal.
- Kyle Beckerman “colliding” with Brian Mullan after a play.
- Drew Moor raising his elbow during a mid-air challenge with Will Johnson.
And that was just the first 30 minutes before any cards were given out. Later, Drew Moor would draw a yellow card for fighting (an inexplicable yellow since he hit Luis Gil in the head).
Fabian Espindola would cap it all off with a goal scored on what the Twitter-verse quickly labeled a “blown hand-ball call.”
Why is it that way?
“It’s tough to put your finger on exactly why rivalries are born,” coach Jason Kreis said. “I think this was a rivalry that was started by the fans. They did a terrific job of selling it to the players, and the players have now taken it on board.”
The fans certainly take it seriously. There is an increased police presence at Rio Tinto Stadium whenever Colorado comes to town. Security staff indicate Colorado is the only team whose bus needs protection as it leaves the stadium.
While a rivalry created by fans is certainly a unique story, the intensity is certainly supplemented by playing meaningful matches. In 2008 and 2009, Real Salt Lake defeated Colorado in the last match of the season. In both instances, the victory put Salt Lake in the playoffs and left Colorado out.
However, there is more to it than just the playoffs.
“I think there is a lot of pride on the line,” former Rapid and Colorado native Nat Borchers said. “We want to bring that cup home. We want to bring it to our fans.”
Salt Lake is now two goals ahead in the race for the Rocky Mountain Cup. The sides will play again at Rio Tinto on July 21st and in Colorado on August 4th.