Aug. 26, 2016 was almost a year ago, but for fans of Real Salt Lake and the Colorado Rapids it must feel like ancient history.
It was on that night in Sandy, Utah's Rio Tinto Stadium that RSL would secure a 2-1 win to claim that season's Rocky Mountain Cup over their western rivals.
Of note was how the standings looked post-match. The Rapids stood second in the Western Conference with 43 points, with only FC Dallas owning a better record. Winners RSL were just as good, level with Colorado on points and third place on goal difference.
As we now know, it was a false dawn for both teams.
RSL didn't win any of their final seven regular season matches, accumulating just three points, and were promptly ushered out of the postseason 3-1 by the L.A. Galaxy. That tailspin carried into 2017. Coach Jeff Cassar was fired, the team's struggles continue under new boss Mike Petke, Yura Movsisyan is giving the hush sign after scoring and even the freakin' printer doesn't work.
Colorado's fall from grace has traveled a different path. The Rapids nicely recovered from that RSL loss and were in the mix for the Supporters' Shield until the final week of the season. After surviving a penalty shootout against the Galaxy in the conference semifinals, they fell victim to Seattle's late season surge in the conference finals.
There was hope that the Rapids defense, which gave up a league best 32 goals in 2016, would not miss a beat in 2017. While still solid, the Colorado's back line has been far leakier this year, already coughing up 2016's total of 32 with 11 matches still left to play.
An anemic offense, whose cracks were papered over by last season's defense, has a paltry 22 goals in 2017 and like at RSL, a coaching change was made, with Pablo Mastroeni getting the pink slip last week.
It all sets the stage for a Rocky Mountain Cup clash this Saturday in which both teams are at a crossroads.
Of the two, RSL should feel more optimistic, starting with the man in charge. Petke has had coaching success in MLS, having led the New York Red Bulls to the Supporters' Shield in 2013 and then the Eastern Conference finals in 2014.
The squad has plenty of promising faces, too. While veterans like goalkeeper Nick Rimando and midfielder Kyle Beckerman remain in the mix, the RSL roster is gushing with young talent, like defender Justen Glad and forwards Brooks Lennon and Sebastian Saucedo, who all represented the United States earlier this year at the Under-20 World Cup.
Help has come in from abroad as well. Young Venezuela international Jefferson Savarino has the pace, versatility and strength to wreak havoc against opposing defenses. He is a nice complement to winter arrival and Slovakia midfielder Albert Rusnak, a player who never shies away from a 50-50 challenge. That attacking prowess has flexed its muscles already, by hanging six on the Galaxy in L.A., followed by a quartet of goals in Portland.
The wart here is the 47 goals conceded. RSL did string together two clean sheets earlier this month, but then was gutted by Montreal in a 3-1 romp last Saturday. Granted, Glad missed the first 16 games due to injury and international duty, a span that saw RSL give up 35 goals, but there are still individual errors being committed that are holding RSL back.
Things are far less clear in Colorado. Many questions hang over the club in the wake of Mastroeni's departure. Interim boss Steve Cooke used a more attack-happy 4-3-3 -- a change from Mastroeni's 4-4-2 -- in last Saturday's 1-0 loss to DC United in which the Rapids twice hit the post. The great unknown is whether Cooke's offensive approach can unlock the likes of Kevin Doyle, Dominique Badji and Shkelzen Gashi. Saturday's affair could offer some clues against RSL's vulnerable back four.
Nevertheless, Colorado has a lot of work to do the rest of the season and this winter if it is to start fulfilling the new vision set forth by GM Padraig Smith. One gets the sense that for the players on the roster at present, the next two months represent one, long job interview.
From trophy-lifting aspirations in 2016 to the uncertainty of 2017, Saturday's rivalry renewal for RSL and Colorado is reminder of how quickly the MLS winds can change out west.