Real Salt Lake-Rapids Preview

The Associated Press

Western Conference rivals Real Salt Lake and the Colorado Rapids remain in the middle of the playoff hunt, though each have struggled recently to earn victories.

Real Salt Lake will try to buck recent series history and pick up a road win Saturday night over the Rapids as it seeks its seventh Rocky Mountain Cup in eight seasons.

Salt Lake (8-4-9) owns a three-point edge over Colorado and two other clubs for second place in the West, but it's gone 2-4-3 in its last nine.

The defense appears to be improved, however, with the club limiting opponents to one goal in six straight matches after conceded 21 in the previous 14 contests. Nick Rimando is one shutout shy of tying Kevin Hartman's MLS record of 112.

Salt Lake played to a 1-all draw with New York on Wednesday, with Joao Plata scoring his team-leading ninth goal in the 18th minute.

"I thought, attacking-wise, that we were very good," coach Jeff Cassar told the team's official website. "I thought we were good on both sides of the ball tonight. I couldn't ask more from our players. (The Red Bulls) had one shot on goal tonight, so defensively we were very strong."

Plata has accounted for three of the team's last seven goals, helping to power RSL offensively in the absence of Alvaro Saborio, out with a fractured metatarsal. Saborio, who led the club with 13 goals last season, hasn't played since May 11 and is expected to miss at least another month.

Plata had scored seven goals in 65 career matches prior to this year.

"He's just deadly right now. Most of his shots are on target, and tonight was no exception," Cassar said. "He's hungry, he wants to keep scoring."

Plata found the back of the net in a 2-1 home win over Colorado on May 17, putting Salt Lake in position to retake the Rocky Mountain Cup after Colorado captured it last year for the first time since 2006.

While the Rapids have won only twice in the last 13 meetings, they're 7-2-5 at home in the series and neither team has lost a meeting at home since 2007.

The Rapids (8-7-6) are 2-3-3 in their last eight matches and have dropped two of three after a 3-0 defeat at New England on Wednesday. Colorado has surrendered nine goals over its last five matches after posting a league-best eight clean sheets in its first 16.

"I never felt like we looked dangerous, always looked like we were on the back foot instead of the front. But obviously there are games that you have to take something from, they're going to happen, especially with a relatively young group," coach Pablo Mastroeni told the league's official website. "We just have to take our lumps and move on."

Colorado defender Thomas Piermayr is suspended after receiving two yellow cards against the Revolution.