A porous defense has put Real Salt Lake in a difficult position early in the season.
More is on the line for RSL than bragging rights when it hosts the Colorado Rapids in a Rocky Mountain Cup rivalry match on Saturday in Sandy, Utah. Salt Lake needs to figure out how to stop opponents from raining down goals early and often.
Through six games, RSL has surrendered an MLS-worst 14 goals. Salt Lake (2-3-1) has allowed 12 goals in its three losses. It is facing an average of 17.3 shots per match, the most of any team in the league the season.
"It's about getting that bite back and that mentality," Salt Lake coach Mike Petke said. "That style of play that we had that made us successful in the second half of last year. The good thing is that we have plenty of time left."
New York City FC poured salt into the proverbial wound in a 4-0 victory over Real Salt Lake a week ago. NYCFC finished with a 26-11 advantage on total shots and put three goals on the board before halftime.
It marked the first time this season that an opponent earned a clean sheet over Salt Lake.
Momentum is definitely favoring Colorado as it travels to Utah. The Rapids are enjoying a four-match unbeaten streak, the latest a 2-0 home victory over defending MLS Cup champion Toronto FC on Saturday.
The Rapids (2-1-2) jumped on Toronto quickly, grabbing the lead on Jack Price's first career MLS goal just 78 seconds into the match. Shkelzen Gashi earned his first goal of the season when he converted a penalty kick in the 78th minute.
Colorado's history on the road against RSL has been forgettable. Salt Lake owns a 15-game home undefeated streak in the Rocky Mountain Cup rivalry. The Rapids last won a game in Utah in 2007 and are 0-9-4 all-time at Rio Tinto Stadium.
"We understand how important this is to the fans, to the club, the history of this game," Rapids coach Anthony Hudson told MLSSoccer.com. "That is something we are not taking for granted, but we also know to prepare best for this game. We have to totally focus on the game plan and preparation."
If the Rapids hope to snap the long road winless streak, finding an early offensive spark with be crucial.
Generating offense has been a major issue for Colorado on the road. The Rapids have just one win against 16 losses and three draws in their last 20 road matches. They have tallied just nine total goals in that stretch.