When it was officially announced that Salt Lake City would be awarded an MLS expansion club, fans from Utah and Colorado founded the bi-partisan Committee of 10 (5 supporters from each club) and began to outline the official rules of the competition. The contest was named the Rocky Mountain Cup after a vote from the fans and a trophy was acquired.
The Rocky Mountain Cup began on April 16, 2005 at Real Salt Lake’s inaugural home game, in which Real earned their first ever win with a 1-0 victory. Colorado eventually won the trophy in 2005 after besting Real in the three subsequent matches that season, officially clinching the Cup at their final meeting of the year at Rice-Eccles Stadium.
Prior to the 2006 MLS season, the two clubs swapped players in a trade, exchanging forward Jeff Cunningham and midfielder Clint Mathis. The repercussions of the trade surfaced in an August 10 match in which RSL humiliated Colorado 4-1 at INVESCO Field, punctuated by a stellar performance by Cunningham in which he earned two goals and an assist.
The Rapids would however have their revenge later that year on September 2, during a very heated match in Salt Lake City. The affair saw numerous hard fouls and seven yellow cards. Colorado would grind out a 1-0 victory and secure the Rocky Mountain Cup for the second consecutive year. A myriad of controversy erupted after the game as the Rapids celebrated with the trophy. Rapids captain Pablo Mastroeni removed his shirt, stuffed it down his shorts, and began making gestures at the Salt Lake fans. RSL owner Dave Checketts then came on to the field and confronted Mastroeni in an angry verbal exchange which was later broken up by players and officials. Much to the ire of Real fans, the League did not take action for Mastroeni’s controversial behavior.
The 2007 competition kicked off with the Rapids earning a comfortable 2-0 win on the road. After the match, Colorado midfielder Kyle Beckerman made remarks towards RSL supporters and their reaction towards the controversy of the previous September: “It definitely comes from their fans. They run their mouths the whole game. If they don’t want us to celebrate, win the game.”
The next meeting between the teams finished with a bizarre distinction of being the only draw in MLS history in which only own-goals were scored. Later that year, on July 16, the two clubs exchanged Kyle Beckerman and Mehdi Ballouchy. This trade proved particularly controversial for Rapids supports and further deteriorated their relationship with Colorado head coach Fernando Clavijo.
Real Salt Lake would then even the 2007 series in September, forcing the deciding match in Colorado a month later on the final game of the season. Both teams were all but mathematically ruled out of the MLS Cup Playoffs, leaving the October 20 contest largely a match for pride. The Rapids only needed a draw to secure the cup for a third year, but Real grabbed a late win when Robbie Findley scored in the 87th minute. The win for Real Salt Lake won, the club, their first Rocky Mountain cup, and also made a painful end to one of Colorado’s worst ever seasons.
2008 would play out in similar fashion to the previous year. The deciding match was again at Dick’s Sporting Goods Park on the final day of the season. However, the stakes were higher with a win for either side guaranteeing a playoff spot along with the Rocky Mountain Cup (Real could also prevail with a draw). Colorado pulled ahead and held a 1-0 lead into the closing seconds of the game, but Yura Movsisyan scored a clutch stoppage time goal to end the game with a 1-1 draw. The result was quite possibly RSL’s greatest moment in club history: retaining the cup for a second year, clinching their first ever postseason berth, and also denying Rapids of the playoffs on their own turf.
The 2010 edition of the Rocky Mountain Cup played out as close and exciting as the previous 3 seasons. In the first leg, held September 27 at RSL’s Rio Tinto Stadium, Real Salt Lake fielded a squad of mostly reserves in the middle of a busy stretch of their schedule including 2010-11 CONCACAF Champions League group stage matches. Coach Jason Kreis rested most of the starters in anticipation of an opportunity to clinch a berth in the CCL knockout round three days later. Conor Casey gave Colorado a 1-0 lead in the 36th minute. The result looked like it would hold until former Rapids defender Nat Borchers headed in a service from Andy Williams in the 93rd minute for the 1-1 draw. The second leg would finish in an even more exciting (and heart breaking) fashion. The teams returned to Dick’s Sporting Goods Park for the final match of the regular season on October 23. Both teams had already clinched playoff spots. RSL needed a win or tie to have a chance at winning the Supporter’s Shield. Colorado appeared to dash those hopes with a 16th minute goal by Omar Cummings and a 51st minute header by Conor Casey. Rapids fans were ready to celebrate their first Rocky Mountain Cup in 4 years while carrying a 2-0 lead into stoppage time. RSL forward Alvaro Saborio scored twice in stoppage time – first on a blocked clearance from Colorado keeper Matt Pickens in the 91st minute and the second on a penalty in the 95th minute after Drew Moor pulled RSL defender Jamison Olave down in the box on an RSL free kick. The resulting 2-2 draw gave RSL the Rocky Mountain Cup for the 4th consecutive season due to being the previous year winner. Scenes after the match proved ugly when several RSL players made obscene gestures towards the Colorado supporter’s terrace. The draw would prove to be beneficial for Colorado, as it put them in the easier Eastern Conference bracket for the 2010 MLS Cup Playoffs in which Colorado won its first ever MLS Cup.
The deciding moment in 2011 edition proved to be controversial. On April 13, the game at Rio Tinto was scoreless and in the 93rd minute. Salt Lake was awarded a free kick just outside the 18-yard box. The subsequent play was a scramble in the box the resulted in the game winning goal for RSL. The goal scorer, Fabian Espindola, was in an offside position and the goal was incorrectly allowed to stand. The United States Soccer Federation later conceded that the center referee, Baldomero Toledo, was wrong in his decision to let the goal stand. The reverse fixture in ended in a 0-0 draw, with Colorado doing the majority of the attacking and Salt Lake was content on playing very defensively. The game also proved costly for the Rapids when Pablo Mastroeni suffered a concussion during the match and had to be substituted early. It was an injury that would linger for over a year, and consequently forced him out of the lineup.
The 2012 year gave the Rapids a difficult uphill battle. Due to MLS expansion, the fixtures were changed so that inter-conference teams (both Salt Lake and Colorado are in the Western Conference) now had to play each other three times instead of twice. Colorado had to travel to Utah for the first two games, meaning that Salt Lake were given a distinct advantage. Both of those matches ended in 2-0 victories for RSL. The Rapids, however, did find some redemption by winning the final match in Colorado.
In 2013 the schedule tables has turned, and Salt Lake had to make the trip to the Mile High City twice with the first match in Utah. An injured and depleted Rapids squad was dealt a hard blow when goalkeeper Matt Pickens suffered a broken arm just four minutes into the match, forcing a very green Clint Irwin to make his first MLS appearance. The match ended 1-1. The second meeting ended in victory for Colorado, with an early goal by Atiba Harris being the lone tally in the match. The true difference maker however was Clint Irwin, still standing in for the injured Matt Pickens. RSL was awarded a penalty kick which was taken by Alvaro Saborio. Irwin saved the shot with a diving hand and pushed it onto the post, keeping Salt Lake off the score sheet. In the third and final contest of the year, Salt Lake took an early lead in the 2nd minute, but Colorado found a quick reply just seven minutes later. The match was delayed for an hour midway through the first half due to lighting. After the delay RSL converted a penalty kick to take a 2-1 lead. The decisive blow, however, came in the 70th minute when Jamie Castrillon found the back of the net and pulled Colorado level. The match ended 2-2, and Colorado reclaimed the Rocky Mountain Cup after a long six-year wait.