Date - July 11th, 2006
Round - 3rd
Opponent - Virginia Beach Mariners
Stadium - Rice Eccles Stadium
Score - RSL 2 - Virginia Beach Mariners 1
-Long scoreless streak ends for Real, kind of
(by Michael Black desnews.com 7-12-06)
Real Salt Lake may have struggled to a 2-1 overtime victory over the Virginia Beach Mariners, but besides simply getting the result, Salt Lake was able to finally put the ball in the goal.
Jeff Cunningham's penalty-kick goal in the 28th minute broke a 272-minute scoreless streak for RSL. After being shut out in its previous two games, the team had failed to find the back of the net since the 25th minute of its game at Chicago. However, the goal does not count toward the MLS stats, and the team is still moving toward its own dubious record of scoreless minutes of 557 in league play.
Besides breaking out of a team scoreless streak, Andy Williams' tally in the 93rd minute from 25 yards was last season's MVP's first goal of the season. Although he had several near-misses, including a shot that bounced off the crossbar Saturday at the Galaxy, Williams had played 649 minutes of soccer this season without scoring before the breakthrough.
"A great goal by Andy . . . We knew we just needed one, and Andy took care of that," said Ellinger of Williams goal in overtime.
LIGHTNING STRIKES: For the second time this year, Real faced a delay for lightning. In the 61st minute, the referees deemed it too dangerous to continue. Once the decision was made, a mandatory 30-minute delay was enforced, and it was 36 minutes before play resumed. Last month the team experienced a 58-minute delay in Chicago and came out flat, giving up two goals. This time Real reacted differently.
"We really just addressed the focus issue," Ellinger said of what the team did in the locker room during the break.
LET'S PLAY MORE: RSL has twice played in the Lamar Hunt Open Cup, and twice it has gone to overtime. Major League Soccer does not play overtime during the regular season, so the two appearances in the cup are the only two overtime games in franchise history. Real evened its overtime record at 1-1 with the 2-1 win. Last season the team succumbed to Minnesota, giving up two goals in the extra stanza to lose 4-6.
-Williams keeps RSL from embarrassment
(by James Edwards desnews.com 7-12-06)
These days, nothing comes easy for Real Salt Lake on the pitch or in the political world.
Nonetheless, on a day in which RSL's stadium hopes took a major blow, Andy Williams made sure the team didn't suffer through an embarrassing loss as well.
The MLS veteran, who's seen a significant drop in playing time the past two months, scored on a magnificent 25-yard strike early in overtime to help RSL hold off the Virginia Beach Mariners, 2-1, in the third round of the U.S. Open Cup.
"That's what I said to them before the overtime started," said RSL coach John Ellinger. "Turn this moment right now into a catalyst for the rest of the season, and hopefully it does."
With the victory, Real advances to the fourth round, where it will host the Colorado Rapids on Aug. 2. It was a result that should've been much easier against the United Soccer League's First Division club, but MLS teams often find life difficult against lower division teams in the single elimination tournament.
In the third round of last year's U.S. Open Cup, RSL dropped a 6-4 overtime game at the Minnesota Thunder — another USL First Division club. A Jason Kreis hat trick was wasted in that game as Minnesota scored an equalizer in the 89th minute, and then scored two more goals in the 30-minute overtime.
"Last year we lost in overtime, and it was kind of like the rest of the season it hung over our heads every time there was an Open Cup date," said Ellinger.
This time around, RSL learned its lesson about overtime, and lightning delays.
Tuesday's game was halted for 36 minutes in the second half because of a lightning delay. Two weeks ago, when lightning delayed its game at Chicago, Real came out and squandered its 1-0 lead by surrendering two goals the final 10 minutes and lost 2-1.
During the delay, Ellinger reminded his players to stay focused and learn from the mistakes made in Chicago.
Real dominated following the storm, but once again, it continued to struggle with its finishing. In the 89th minute, second-half substitute Mehdi Ballouchy banged an empty-net shot off the left post following a fantastic dribbling run and then cross by fellow substitute Ryan Johnson.
"There's something about the six-yard box and our finishing, other than that I thought we defended well and minimized our mistakes in the second half and kept our focus," said Ellinger.
It didn't take Williams long to avenge Ballouchy's miss.
In the third minute of the 30-minute overtime, Ballouchy laid a free kick off to Williams near the top of the box, and he unleashed a powerful shot that diving Virginia Beach keeper Matt Nelson had no chance of saving.
With a league match at New England this Friday, Ellinger started only four of his regular starting 11. Seven of the 11, however, have started at least one game this year. Regardless of who was on the field for Salt Lake, Virginia Beach didn't seem the least bit intimidated against the upper division MLS club.
After dodging several Mariners' scoring opportunities in the opening 20 minutes, RSL settled down and eventually took the lead in the 27th minute on a Jeff Cunningham penalty kick. Jamie Watson earned the penalty when he was tackled in the box by the Mariners' Alan Woods, less than a minute after Watson had a breakaway shot saved by keeper Matthew Nelson.
The goal snapped a 272-minute scoreless streak for RSL, which sits in last place in the MLS Western Conference with a 3-9-4 record.
It was a short-lived lead. In the 37th minute RSL defender Kevin Novak misplayed a long ball by Woods, enabling Virginia Beach midfielder Tim O'Neill to slip in behind him and bury a shot past Jay Nolly just inside the right post.
"If they get a goal, they believe they can play and they try and make a statement," said Ellinger. "They played well, my hats off to them. They battled all the way to the end."
Date - August 2nd
Round - 4th
Opponent - Colorado Rapids
Stadium - Rice Eccles Stadium
Score - Colorado Rapids 1 - RSL 0
-Another 1-0 home loss for RSL
(by Dan Rasmussen desnews.com 8-3-06)
On the heels of a huge come-from-behind win over league-leading D.C. United last Saturday, Real Salt Lake hoped to use its fourth-round U.S. Open Cup game against Colorado to build momentum before this weekend's MLS All-Star break.
After playing reasonably well during the first half, Real failed to sustain that effort after halftime. Former RSL midfielder Clint Mathis assisted on the game-winning goal in the 61st minute and Colorado hung on for a 1-0 win Wednesday night, knocking Salt Lake out of the U.S. Open Cup.
"Before the game (the state of the team) was OK," said coach John Ellinger. "I don't know what it is now. Obviously, we were frustrated again. The mood with everybody felt we were going to make a go at this competition. I just didn't feel it happened."
The killer blow came in the 61st minute, thanks to solid work by Mathis. After receiving the ball down the right side, he advanced it toward the endline, drawing RSL defenders Willis Forko and Nik Besagno toward him. From there, Mathis perfectly back-heeled the ball into the path of a wide-open Jacob Peterson, who banged the ball into the net.
Mathis made his second appearance in Salt Lake City since being traded from the team last fall.
"It's funny, the guys are always giving me stick here and there" said Mathis, who was subbed out in the 84th minute, "but it's part of the game and it's no worries."
RSL created a handful of chances over the final five minutes, including a first-time effort by sub Joey Worthen that was tipped wide, but it wasn't enough.
Real Salt Lake outshot Colorado 17-8, including a 10-3 advantage in the first half. However, Ellinger didn't feel his squad played that well or that it created enough quality scoring chances.
"In the first half, I thought we got behind them," he said. "But again, where did it go from there? We got in behind them and then did we cross it and get somebody on the end of the cross? Did we lay the ball off for a good, quality chance? I don't think we did that."
Winger Chris Klein played fairly well during the opening 45 minutes to help Salt Lake get behind the defense.
"Very good first half. Definitely thought we had the better of the chances," said Klein. "For whatever reason, we didn't have the same intensity in the second half."
Ellinger tried to get his team to play more through the middle and into wide positions in the second half, but it didn't pay off.
Now the focus will shift back to Real's playoff chase. After the All-Star break, Salt Lake, which is tied for fifth-place, will face Colorado.
"Some ways, sometimes, it could be good to get out of this tournament because you can focus on what we need to focus on right now," said captain Jason Kreis. "We are splitting our thoughts in other places, and it could take away from what we need out of this season."
Welcome to the RSL Cup blog
I've been a fan of Real Salt Lake since it joined MLS and took to the field in 2005, and I've been a fan of MLS since it began in 1996. Lately however I've started to worry about the path MLS is taking and the poor decisions they are making that in my mind threaten the growth of soccer as a whole in the US. (see "Columbus conspiracy" section) Soccer in America will grow only when we have a vibrant and diverse minor league system, something that MLS seems to be smothering at the moment. (see "American soccer wars" section) Let's keep our eyes on the situation and hope for the best, a future where grass-roots soccer and the minor leagues can not only exist but flourish, as well as where the contributions and history of the league's early clubs are appreciated and preserved.