VANCOUVER – It's been a while since Real Salt Lake looked like one of the top teams in the Western Conference. Playing without its suspended captain hasn't helped.
Kyle Beckerman will miss a third straight game Friday night when Salt Lake visits the Colorado Rapids, who look to move closer to clinching a playoff berth.
Beckerman earned an automatic one-game suspension after receiving a red card for head-butting Chicago's Daniel Paladini in a 3-0 loss to the Fire on Sept. 28. The league announced last week that Beckerman will sit out the next two as well.
After sitting out a 2-1 loss at Los Angeles on Oct. 1, Beckerman, who has three goals and nine assists, missed a 3-0 loss to Vancouver on Oct. 6 because of U.S. national team duty.
Beckerman's ban - he'll also miss the final two regular season games - comes as an inopportune time for RSL. Salt Lake (15-11-6) is in third place in the West and has already clinched a postseason berth, but it has dropped four straight and is now only two points ahead of FC Dallas, which has secured at least a wild-card spot.
Dropping out of the top three in the conference would force RSL to play a single-elimination game against another wild-card club.
"We have two games to get our (stuff) together," midfielder Andy Williams told RSL's official website. "We have two games to get it into gear, and we're not even focusing on the four-game losing streak."
Salt Lake hasn't lost five in a row since a 10-game skid in its inaugural season in 2005, but the club hasn't show much punch recently, getting outscored 12-2 in its last four games.
"It's not a sprint, it's a marathon," defender Nat Borchers, the team's temporary captain, said Tuesday. "You get your satisfaction over what happens at the end of the season - the season's not over yet. It's been a roller coaster so far, but this is a group that's faced adversity before. We've come out on top."
RSL will face the defending MLS champs, who have been struggling as well but can clinch a playoff berth with a win and a Portland loss or tie on Friday.
Colorado (11-9-12) snapped a five-game winless streak (0-3-2) with a 1-0 victory over FC Dallas on Oct. 1. Drew Moor scored his fourth goal of the season and second in as many games while Matt Pickens recorded his seventh shutout.
RSL beat Colorado 1-0 on April 13 to take the lead in the Rocky Mountain Cup, awarded to the winner of the season series.
If the Rapids win Friday, the trophy goes to the team with the most goals on aggregate.
"All I know is this game is very big," forward Macoumba Kandji said. "First, we want to win so we can all relax and go into the playoffs. Secondly, it's a rivalry that is important for the fans. We definitely want to win the Rocky Mountain Cup and get into the playoffs, so we are looking at a 2-0 win or higher, hopefully."
Colorado is looking to get its offense going, having scored three goals in the last five games. The Rapids, however, have scored just four goals while going 0-2-3 in their last five meetings against Salt Lake.