Date - April 30th, 2008
Round - MLS play in game #1
Opponent - San Jose Earthquakes
Stadium - Rice Eccles Stadium
Score - RSL 4 - San Jose Earthquakes 0
-Team puts superior depth on display
(by James Edwards desnews.com 5-1-08)
Improved depth was one of the biggest reasons why expectations were so high for Real Salt Lake heading into the 2008 season.
Over the course of such a long season, along with the inevitable injuries and suspensions, the coaching staff believed more depth would translate into more wins.
In Wednesday night's U.S. Open Cup qualifier at Rice-Eccles Stadium, that depth was on full display, and expansion San Jose — a team with virtually no depth — never had a chance.
RSL scored three goals in the opening half, including two in the same minute, as it cruised to the 4-0 victory over the Earthquakes.
"We were very please with the way our team's mentality was, it would've been easy to come out a little bit flat ... but our guys were fantastic, they started out bright and did all the things that we asked of them in the first 20 minutes," said Real Salt Lake coach Jason Kreis.
With the victory Salt Lake advances to the next phase of U.S. Open Cup qualifying on May 27 at the Columbus Crew. A victory in Ohio would send RSL to Chicago for the last phase of qualifying, with that winner officially qualifying for the 48-team tournament.
For a franchise that waited until overtime to win Open Cup matches in each of the past two seasons, Wednesday's match was seriously lacking in drama.
In the 21st minute, Kyle Beckerman put RSL in front 1-0 as he tapped in a loose ball in the box. Teammate Matias Mantilla initially won the header on a corner kick, and the ball trickled to Beckerman, who tapped it in just in front of San Jose keeper Preston Burpo.
A dozen minutes later, Beckerman doubled his team's advantage with a low driven shot struck about 30 yards from goal. Amazingly, in the same 33rd minute, RSL scored again as San Jose coughed the ball up on the kickoff and Matias Cordoba set up Yura Movsisyan to increase the advantage to 3-0.
"Teams are always suspect to make mistakes immediately after you score or get scored on, and they made a pretty bad mistake there and Matias Cordoba was there to punish them for it," said Kreis. "I thought it was a very bright play on his part and an extremely intelligent pass he played to Yura there."
With San Jose coach Frank Yallop deciding to rest most of his regulars for this weekend's match against FC Dallas, Wednesday's outcome was rather predictable. Only Ryan Cochrane and Ramiro Corrales had seen much playing time for the expansion Earthquakes this year, and any hopes for an upset were further dashed early on when defenders Cochrane and Jay Ayres both had to leave the match after a midfield collision.
"I think we were benefactors of that for sure, one of them is Ryan Cochrane and he's really the organizer of the center of the defense for them," said Kreis.
While San Jose rested key players, seven of RSL's starting 11 had started at least one regular-season MLS match this year. The only four who hadn't were Tony Beltran, Matias Cordoba, Chris Seitz and Kenny Cutler.
RSL's Andy Williams wrapped up the scoring in the 90th minute on an assist from second-half substitute Tino Nunez.
Kreis' decision to start some of his regulars, not to mention inserting players like Javier Morales and Dema Kovalenko into the match in the second half, was a clear indicator he was taking the match seriously.
"Like we said from the beginning of the season, we don't lose at home so we're going to stick by that and work hard so we get those results, so to us it was just like another regular season game," said Real striker Robbie Findley.
The big question is did RSL leave any of the offensive output in the tank? The high-scoring L.A. Galaxy, featuring David Beckham, make their only visit of the season to Salt Lake City this Saturday in what figures to a much-hyped match.
Date - May 27th, 2008
Round - MLS play in game #2
Opponent - Columbus Crew
Stadium - Crew Stadium
Score - Columbus Crew 2 - RSL 0
-RSL's trophy outlook dims with 2-0 loss
(by Darryl Mellema desnews.com 6-2-08)
Real Salt Lake's 2008 trophy potential got halved on Tuesday thanks to a 2-0 defeat by the Columbus Crew in a U.S. Open Cup play-in match.
"It's tough," RSL midfielder Kyle Beckerman said. "We're in a bit of a road slump and trying to find a way to get out. We can't find answers right now. The fight was there though."
The match turned irretrievably against the visitors in a four-minute span of the second half. RSL trailed at that point from a Steve Lenhart 26th-minute goal.
First Dema Kovalenko was sent off for needlessly tossing the ball at Columbus' Emmanuel Ekpo in the 50th minute. Ekpo had just fouled RSL's Ian Joy, and a heated exchange between players of both teams ensued.
"We need (Kovalenko) out there," Beckerman said. "He's really important for the team."
Contact between the ball and Ekpo's face was minimal, but the Columbus midfielder went down like he was hit by a baseball bat. Referee Jeff Gontarek did not hesitate to send off Kovalenko for throwing the ball at an opponent.
"You just can't do that," Kreis said. "We didn't really have any arguments for that."
Columbus took immediate advantage of the extra space in the 54th minute. Robbie Rogers curled a shot from the top left corner of the penalty area in at Nick Rimando's right post.
"Obviously the ejection's not good for us," RSL coach Jason Kreis said. "And then they score a goal on top of that. We were back on our heels pretty badly at that point."
RSL reshuffled its deck. Tony Beltran replaced Dustin Kirby six minutes after Rodgers' goal. Fabian Espindola came on for Tino Nunez with 20 minutes to play in the match.
RSL began to get some offense moving with its changed lineup, though the two-goal deficit proved impossible to retrieve. Javier Morales entered the match for Matias Cordoba with 17 minutes to play as the game became truly end-to-end. RSL's Rimando was kept very busy throughout the match.
"I think we made it tough on ourselves," Rimando said. "Especially in the second half when we got a red card. We knew we were going to be down a man, and we knew we had to press to get a goal. We had to win or we were out of the tournament so that's why we pressed."
Ironically, RSL played its best attacking soccer in the 10-versus-11 situations, getting its best chances on Andy Gruenebaum in the final half-hour of play.
"After the ejection, we started to play a little more soccer," Kreis said. "We have to say 'hey' we played pretty well after our player got ejected. That shows a pretty good response."
Despite its renewed attacking vigor, RSL failed to force a breakthrough and the Crew advanced to meet Chicago in the next round.
RSL, meanwhile, returns to MLS action and hosts San Jose on Saturday in a key Western Conference matchup. MLS Cup is the only remaining trophy RSL can claim this season.
"We feel that's a must-win for us on Saturday," Beckerman said. "I'm sure San Jose feels the same. It's going to be a battle and hopefully we can keep doing well at home and get three points."
Tuesday's match was the first in an RSL uniform for forward Tino Nunez and defender David Horst.
Nunez lasted until halftime, when he was replaced by Andy Williams. The U.S. Open Cup allows five substitutions rather than the three allowed in MLS play.
Horst played the entire 90 minutes.
"I think there was good and bad — typical of what you're going to find in young players," Kreis said. "There were some good moments and there were some mistakes for both of them."
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.