RSL has eyes on Rocky Mountain Cup

By By Jon Gilbert

By Jon Gilbert

The home schedule is finished and team honors have been awarded. But, even with one match remaining, in no way is the season over.

RSL will visit the Colorado Rapids with the winner claiming ownership to the Rocky Mountain Cup on Saturday.

In its three-year history, Real has yet to win a single trophy. Colorado has claimed the Cup both in 2005 and 2006. After splitting the season series so far with the Rapids 1-1-1, Real is in position to take home the trophy with a victory.

The trophy is not Real’s only motivation to end the season with a win against Colorado. The match will be Eddie Pope’s last of his MLS career. The team tried to get a win for the All-Star veteran defender at home against Houston, but was unsuccessful. Now, it has its last chance.

“I emotionally put a lot into that game (against Houston) and I hope, I think the players did as well,” head coach Jason Kreis said. “I am sure we are all disappointed not to have gotten (Pope) a win to go out with.”

RSL is using that desire to fuel their performance Saturday.

“We will try desperately now, another reason for us?to get a win,” Kreis said.

Another reason that Real might push for the three-point decision is to avoid ending with the league’s worst record. The club sports a 5-15-9 record and 24 points, which locks it in a last place tie with Toronto FC before Saturday’s game. Toronto welcomes the New England Revolution on Saturday.

“I think we still know that when we look out there (on the field) and we know that we have to improve,” Kreis said.

Pope said that the problem does not lie within the club’s desire.

“You always want to win,” he said. “That’s why we’re here. We’re competitors, everybody on this team…the coach staff are all ex-players. I think it’s something that just comes natural for us, and when I’m done playing, I’ll be finding something else to compete in, it’s just in our makeup.”

An intrasquad competition will be brewing within the match. Real’s Golden Boot Award winner has yet to be selected. Strikers Robbie Findley and Chris Brown each own five scores for the season. Findley has scored a total of seven goals on the season including his time with the Los Angeles Galaxy in the first half of the season.

Both Findley and Brown have started 11 games for RSL and will likely get the start Saturday.

Colorado enters the match on the playoff outskirts trying to push its way in. With two playoff spots still unclaimed, the Rapids are in line behind Chicago and Kansas City. The Rapids have 35 points and both Chicago and Kansas City have 37. The Los Angeles Galaxy are also in the picture in the midst of a torrid playoff push. The Galaxy have 33 points and two matches remaining.

There are a few scenarios facing the Rapids. To get into the playoffs, they must first defeat RSL. Then, Los Angeles must not win one of its games. Then, either Chicago must lose or draw or Kansas City must lose.

It all starts with claiming the Rocky Mountain Cup for the Rapids’ playoff hopes to stay alive.

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Teresa Getten

Eddie Pope shakes hands with opponents and teammates after Monday’s loss to Houston Dynamo. RSL will face the Colorado Rapids on Saturday in the last game of Pope’s career.