The Colorado Rapids look to continue their dominance of Real Salt Lake as the teams meet at Invesco Field on Wednesday.
The Rapids (8-7-4) are 4-0-1 against Real since a 1-0 loss in their first-ever meeting April 16, 2005. Colorado has outscored Real Salt Lake 9-4 in six all-time MLS matches, winning the inaugural Rocky Mountain Cup last year, and also reached the quarterfinals of the U.S. Open Cup with a 1-0 victory Aug. 2 over RSL on a goal by rookie Jacob Peterson.
Colorado is hoping goalkeeper Joe Cannon can carry his strong play from the MLS All-Star game into this match. Cannon, Colorado’s lone All-Star, made a game-high three saves for the MLS in its 1-0 win over Chelsea FC on Saturday.
Despite his performance in the All-Star game, Cannon is struggling this season with a 1.56 goals-against average and three shutouts in 15 games. A two-time MLS goalkeeper of the year, Cannon had a 1.20 GAA and eight shutouts in 27 matches in 2005.
Colorado has yet to win consecutive matches this season but is third in the Western Conference, one point better than Chivas USA and eight ahead of Real Salt Lake (5-10-5) and Los Angeles. Rapids coach Fernando Clavijo was given a two-year extension Monday that runs through the 2008 season, hoping he builds on the foundation set last year with a surprising run to the Western Conference finals in his first season.
“It is a great honor to be able to continue at the helm of this team,” said Clavijo, who is 21-20-10 as Rapids coach.
“I’m extremely pleased and thankful for the trust put in me to be able to go on and finish the project that I started at the beginning of 2005. Our team has come long way since last season, but there is still work to be done in this three-year plan to be positioned as the franchise at the top of MLS.”
One of Clavijo’s top finds, Dedi Ben-Dayan was sold to Maccabi Netanya of the Israeli Premier League on Tuesday. The Israeli midfielder scored eight goals and four assists in 24 games since joining the Rapids on Aug. 3, 2005.
Real Salt Lake (5-10-5) likely will have captain and defender Eddie Pope back in the lineup after missing three games with a right foot contusion. Pope, who appeared in three World Cups with the United States, announced his international retirement last Thursday,
“It’s still swollen, but I can at least fit it in my shoe, so I’m good to go,” said Pope, who has yet to play against Colorado this year.
Pope’s return is a jolt to a defense that has conceded 29 goals, tying Real with Colorado and Chivas for worst in the MLS.
“Pretty much every game is going to be a huge game for us,” Pope said. “Obviously they are in the division, and you want that swing.”
A win Wednesday will give Salt Lake a chance to enjoy a friendly match Saturday with Spanish powerhouse Real Madrid before visiting the sixth-place team in the East, the Columbus Crew, next Wednesday.