Date - June 28th, 2011
Round - 3rd
Opponent - Wilmington Hammerheads
Stadium - Rio Tinto Stadium
Score - RSL 2 - Wilmington Hammerheads 0
Real Salt Lake takes first step toward Open Cup with win over Wilmington
(by James Edwards desnews.com 6-29-11)
One down, three to go.
That's the mantra for Real Salt Lake following Tuesday night's routine 2-0 victory over the Wilmington Hammerheads in the third round of the U.S. Open Cup at Rio Tinto Stadium.
"It wasn't a perfect game, it's not a game any of us walk out of here and are ecstatic about it, but we got the job done," said RSL coach Jason Kreis.
Four victories is all RSL needs to win the competition, and it's one step closer after overwhelming the inferior lower-division foe from the USL Pro league.
Lifting the Cup would be a nice consolation prize for RSL after coming up short in the CONCACAF Champions League two months ago. The title would also clinch RSL a berth in the 2012-2013 version of the Champions League, an underrated perk to winner.
"We are a club that wants to win trophies, it doesn't matter which kind. So now we're three games away from a trophy and a championship, and three games away from being back into CONCACAF, so we'll put a tremendous amount of focus on that," said Kreis.
Despite Tuesday's win, getting there won't be easy.
As RSL was going through the motions against Wilmington, FC Dallas was squeaking out a 3-2 victory over Orlando City. Dallas will host Real Salt Lake in the U.S. Open Cup quarterfinals on July 12, just three days after the teams meet in a league game at Rio Tinto Stadium.
RSL's all-time record in Dallas, including last year's playoffs, is 0-9-1. That one draw, however, did come this year so there's a glimmer of hope for the visitors.
"We got to win there sometime, this would be a good time to get our first win down there," said RSL midfielder Will Johnson.
RSL got the competition started off on the right foot Tuesday, scoring twice in the first half and then putting it in cruise control the rest of the way in front of 7,620 fans.
It took RSL a bit longer than expected to break the spirits of the last-place team in the USL Pro American Division, but it eventually did.
Tony Beltran opened the scoring in the 40th minute with his first professional goal in any competition. After receiving a Jean Alexandre ball in space at the right edge of the penalty area, Beltran took a few touches and then hammered the ball just inside the near post.
"It's great, I've been wanting to score for a long time and I feel like I've been getting closer and closer and getting more and more confident every game," said Beltran. "Glad I was able to contribute personally, but I'm even more happy we got the win."
After doing a decent job defending with numbers up until that point, the goal was a dagger for the visiting Hammerheads. Four minutes later they found themselves down 2-0 as Alexandre doubled the advantage on an easy finish near the penalty area.
"Those early goals really helped us kill off the game a little bit," said Johnson.
To Wilmington's credit it kept fighting in the second half and didn't concede again.
RSL still had plenty of chances in the second half, including a pair of shots off the woodwork. Johnson was denied by the post in the 76th minute and then Andy Williams was denied by the crossbar in the 81st minute. RSL outshot Wilmington 18-6 and 7-3 with shots on goal.
RSL will now have five days off before jumping back into league play when it hosts New England at 6:30 p.m. on Monday.
Date - July 13th
Round - 4th
Opponent - FC Dallas
Stadium - Pizza Hut Park, Frisco TX
Score - FC Dallas 2 - RSL 1
Real Salt Lake bows out of Open Cup with 2-0 loss
(by Steve Hunt desnews.com 7-13-11)
Just three days after beating FC Dallas at Rio Tinto Stadium, Real Salt Lake looked like a completely different club in a 2-0 loss to FCD in a U.S. Open Cup quarterfinal match at Pizza Hut Park.
Dallas got goals from Jair Benitez in the 18th minute and another from Jackson Goncalves in the 54th to advance.
That first goal definitely set an ominous tone for RSL.
"Giving up the first goal against a good team like Dallas is always tough," Salt Lake defender Nate Borchers said. "After that, we were just under it and I don't think we responded as well as we wanted to."
Salt Lake finished with just six total shots, but none of those were on goal.
Tonight's performance clearly didn't sit well with RSL head coach Jason Kreis, who saw a marked difference in how his side performed tonight compared to how they fared on Saturday night in Sandy.
"I think just the energy level [was the biggest difference]," Kreis said. "We've seen it lots and lots of times here in Dallas where we can't just seem to get the energy level right."
That energy he speaks of was only present to start the second half, when Salt Lake was able to muster several quality chances. One of those opportunities came in the 47th minute when Tony Beltran found some room inside the Dallas area but saw his shot deflected by George John.
And once Dallas added a second goal nine minutes into the final frame, any momentum they had evaporated.
"If we don't have the right energy and the right mentality for games, we oftentimes don't get results," Kreis said. "When we do have the right mentality and energy level for games, we oftentimes do get results."
Despite finishing the first half with only one shot, RSL trailed by only a goal at the break. One reason the game was only 1-0 was because midfielder Ned Grabavoy denied a header by John at the right post one minute before halftime.
But the nail in the coffin for Salt Lake in tonight's defeat was a lack of possession. Other than the early stages of the second half, they didn't control the flow of the game at all.
"I think a big factor for us tonight was our possession game," Borchers said. "I don't think we were as good as we normally are with our possession."
At opening kick, the thermometer read 97 degrees, nine degrees hotter than it was in Saturday's contest at Rio Tinto, and the hotter weather was definitely a factor.
"It was a tough game. It was hot," Salt Lake midfielder Kyle Beckerman said. "They played great and scored two great goals."
RSL had one final chance in the 74th minute when Collen Warner took a shot from 20 yards but his attempt instead struck the crossbar and it remained a two-goal affair.
However, they will have to put this result behind them quickly and refocus their efforts toward league play, which resumes in four days.
"Open Cup's done now and we have to wash our hands and get over that," Borchers said.
And even though Salt Lake is now eliminated from the Open Cup, Beckerman couldn't resist taking a shot at the Dallas crowd, something that goes back to his days in Colorado.
"It's a shame. It seemed like a high school match tonight, with how many in the crowd? 3000? Ha, good one," he said. "It wasn't the greatest atmosphere, which is a shame."
Kreis' team returns to MLS action on Saturday night in Vancouver against the Whitecaps.
"We have a big test in front of us with Vancouver," Borchers said. "It's a tough place to play. We have to make sure we bring our 'A game' on Saturday."
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.