The Centennial State is home for Nat Borchers, a place where he went from an All-State player at Pueblo's East High to a standout at the University of Denver to a favorite with the Colorado Rapids complete with his own fan club, Borchers' Brew Crew.
But when Real Salt Lake visits Commerce City, Colo., this Saturday at 7 p.m., Borchers won't be overwhelmed by nostalgia. Sure, his family and friends will be in the stands, but almost everything else is different from his days as a Rapid: burgundy and blue instead of black and blue, Dick's Sporting Goods Park instead of Invesco Field.
"Everything's changed so much," Borchers said. "It's been, what, five, six years now? But I definitely go back to my old stomping grounds on Gaylord Street, near Cherry Creek. See all my friends and ex-college teammates."
His connection to the team isn't as strong nowadays, but he'll always be thankful to the Rapids for giving him a shot after he went undrafted in 2003. Borchers became a starter by midseason, a surprise breakout that led to a national team call-up for the under-23 Olympic qualifiers. The United States was eliminated, but he had still made an early statement.
"I had a big chip on my shoulder," Borchers said. "I got the phone call from the Rapids' assistant coach to come try out. I went in with the mindset beating out those guys who did get drafted, showing that I was a better player than them. I was a harder worker."
Now in his fifth year with Real Salt Lake, the 31-year-old has been named the team's Defensive Player of the Year three times. He'll have to keep up the performance as RSL enters the next four weeks without 2010 MLS Defender of the Year Jamison Olave, who strained his hamstring Tuesday against C.S. Herediano.
RSL hasn't won a road game since it knocked off Chivas USA 3-0 on June 16. But even after a 5-0 debacle at San Jose last month, Real finds itself only one point behind the Earthquakes for the MLS lead.
Real Salt Lake at Colorado Rapids
P Saturday, Commerce City, Colo. (Dick's Sporting Goods Park)
Kickoff • 7 p.m.
TV • Ch. 4
Radio • 700 AM, 1600 AM, 102.3 FM
All-time series • Real Salt Lake leads 9-8-7.
About RSL • Real wrapped up its sixth consecutive Rocky Mountain Cup with a 2-0 home win on July 28. RSL has an eight-game unbeaten streak against the Rapids. ... Salt Lake can seize first place with a win on Saturday, edging past San Jose while the Earthquakes take the week off. ... Defender Jamison Olave is out two to four weeks with a strained hamstring.
About Colorado • The Rapids have not won an MLS game since June 30, and are mired in a franchise-record six-game losing streak. They went 1-6 in the month of July, the lone victory coming against Swansea City in an international friendly. ... Colorado is tied for 16th in the league, three points ahead of last-place Portland and Toronto.