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MLS Preview: Real Salt Lake vs. Colorado Rapids

Portland Timbers v Real Salt Lake

SANDY, UT - JULY 7: Alvaro Saborio #15 of Real Salt Lake celebrates his third goal, making a hat trick, during a game against the Portland Timbers in the second half July 7, 2012 at Rio Tinto Stadium in Sandy, Utah. Real Salt Lake beat the Portland Timbers 3-0. (Photo by George Frey/Getty Images)

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  • Real Salt Lake has already won this year’s Rocky Mountain Cup
  • Colorado snapped its seven-game losing streak with a draw against Portland on Saturday
  • Match is available via NBCSN and NBC Sports Live Extra tomorrow, 10:00 p.m. Eastern

Last Friday’s disappointment in Seattle could easily turn into a positive for Real Salt Lake. Though the team lost 3-2 on Andy Rose’s late stoppage time goal, RSL enjoyed a strong start against its talented hosts, and while the team needed a fluke goal to pull even in the second half, the Claret and Cobalt nearly overcame its man disadvantage to take a draw out of CenturyLink.

Ultimately, and against one of the league’s most talented teams, RSL played fairly well. If that’s the type of performance the team offers on the road in the playoffs, RSL has a chance to make another MLS Cup.

Compared to that showdown, tomorrow’s game at Rio Tinto looks like a reprieve. From another point-of-view, it could be a trap. Colorado may be in the midst of an eight-game winless run, but the Rapids are still rivals - ones who have not beaten their Rocky Mountain counterparts this year. They also showed life last week against Portland. They may be fading from the playoff race, but the Rapids aren’t quite ready to roll over.

Their task is much more difficult this week, and not only because they’re back on the road. Colorado is facing a team that’s starting to get all its pieces in place. Over the last two weeks, forwards Alvaro Saborio (above), Joao Plata, and Sebastian Jaime have come into the team, rounding out Cassar’s options in attack. As the first-year coach gets used to using his vast selection of forwards, RSL will be able to adapt to almost any type of defense.

It’s the main reason Salt Lake should be seen as big favorites tomorrow. Not only have they been better throughout the season, but the options RSL has in attack should offset any small improvements that Rapids are making at the back. If Robbie Findley isn’t breaking down Shane O’Neill, Cassar can make an early move for Saborio. If the team wants to try to pull Marvell Wynne out of position, if can pair Jaime with Joao Plata. If Colorado has early success against RSL’s starters, the team can switch to a different set of threats, with Olmes Garcia giving Cassar yet another option with his two forward positions.

The one worry for RSL is the absence of Nat Borchers, who will sit out after taking a red card against Seattle. Against Colorado, however, Carlos Salcedo may prove a welcome addition. Whereas Deshorn Brown’s speed could be a major problem for borders, Salcedo may stand a better chance of keeping up.

That’s not to say he can stop Brown, who got back onto the scoresheet against Portland. It’s just to say one man’s absence need to define RSL’s chances. With a capable replacement on hand, RSL will survive at the back. The game’s defining question could be how much damage the team’s emboldened attack can do going forward.

Prediction: Real Salt Lake, 3-0.