Silverware. Silverware. It’s Cup Final Time in Salt Lake City
by Kali Korbis, Salt Lake City
Trophies, not friendlies: that’s been Real Salt Lake’s mantra for several seasons now, and the club hopes it will pay off as the players prepare to vie for the Lamar Hunt US Open Cup on Tuesday night against DC United at Rio Tinto Stadium.
To a certain extent, RSL has put all of its proverbial eggs in the USOC basket in 2013, forgoing the summer international friendly circuit yet again and concentrating on the tournament in order to get back to the CONCACAF Champions League.
Coach Jason Kreis has used Kyle Beckerman, Javier Morales, Ned Grabavoy, and Chris Wingert in each of the team’s four games in the tournament, while rotating many of his other regular starters in and out of the lineups at various times.
If Real is to lift the Cup, however, it will have to get by a United side that is also highly motivated to win after its MLS hopes crumbled earlier in the season. DC won in the two sides’ only league meeting in 2013, defeating RSL 1-0 at RFK Stadium back in March.
United’s Jared Jeffrey said candidly to the club’s official website:
“Obviously, our whole season comes down to 90 minutes against Salt Lake, so everyone is really focused, really tuned in and ready to go. It’s been a trying year but we have an opportunity to salvage something on Tuesday, and we’re really looking forward to it.”
Fortunately for Salt Lake, Alvaro Saborio could return to action on Tuesday after missing several matches with a calf injury. The Costa Rican striker has scored ten goals in just 13 league appearances this season, as well as adding two goals in Open Cup play.
Meanwhile, United will have its own goal-scoring threat in the form of Dwayne De Rosario.
The midfielder has scored five goals in the 2013 Open Cup tournament, currently putting him in a tie for the most goals to date in this year’s Cup.
As a result, defensive fortitude will likely be the key for both sides. RSL has had difficulty defending on set pieces recently, while DC has struggled to keep clean sheets even when ultimately winning matches.
Both Kreis and his United counterpart, Ben Olsen, demonstrated their commitment to winning the Open Cup last weekend by using largely reserve sides in their MLS matches in order to keep their starters healthy for Tuesday’s final.
RSL’s gamble paid off with a 1-0 win over the Vancouver Whitecaps, while United lost 4-1 to Toronto FC.
When asked if that result would give his side some momentum going into Tuesday’s match, Kreis said:
“I hope so, you know we said for the next six weeks that the most important match for us is the Open Cup final, and yes we want to compete for the Supporter’s Shield, but for me the chance to win something in a one off game has to take precedence.
We are also very excited for the opportunity that we have, and really excited to play that matchup in front of our fans.”
While Real may have the home advantage, United has the historical edge — this will be RSL’s first Open Cup final, while DC will be appearing in its fifth.
Their last was in 2009 when they went down to Sounders FC. Coincidentally, that was the same year RSL last won a trophy. The Seattle connection re-appears of course, as they won MLS cup in the Emerald City.
League form and history therefore points to an RSL win tonight.
The match will kick off at 7 pm MT and will be aired on GolTV; coverage is also available on US Soccer’s MatchTracker.