Real Salt Lake advanced to the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup Quarterfinals on Wednesday night, scoring five unanswered goals to beat the Charleston Battery 5-2 at Rio Tinto Stadium in the tournament's fourth-round.
Here are a few interesting numbers from the match:
Wednesday’s offensive output of five goals marked the fourth-straight match across all competitions that saw RSL score at least three goals. The Claret-and-Cobalt has now scored three or more goals in five of its last six matches across all competitions dating back to May 19.
RSL has now scored 25 goals in its last nine matches across all competitions. That’s good for 2.78 goals per game. That’s absurd.
Real Salt Lake is now 7-1-1 in its last nine games across all competitions dating back to the team’s 2-0 win over Vancouver Whitecaps FC on May 4. The Claret-and-Cobalt has scored multiple goals in eight of those nine games and outscored its opponents 25-11 during that span.
Real Salt Lake forward Devon Sandoval – who scored two goals on Wednesday night – now has three Open Cup goals in just two career games in the tournament. The rookie second-rounder is tied for the all-time RSL lead in Open Cup goals with Head Coach Jason Kreis, Head Scout Andy Williams and Captain Kyle Beckerman.
RSL will return to the Open Cup on Wednesday, June 26, when it will host the NASL Carolina RailHawks in the tournament’s Quarterfinals at 7:30 p.m. at Rio Tinto Stadium. This is just the third-time in Claret-and-Cobalt history that the team has advanced to the Open Cup Quarters – RSL lost at this stage in the 2006 and 2011 tournament. Tickets to the June 26 game against Carolina – which are not included in the RSL Season Ticket Package – are for sale at the Rio Tinto Stadium box office, online or over the phone at 801-727-2700.
Real Salt Lake's continued run in the US Open Cup presents its own tactical problems, from the need for rotation to questions about how both the defense and attack will deal with a certain-to-be-resolute Charleston Battery defense.
There are two well-balanced opinions that play into a match like this: In one, the impetus on Kreis should be about rotation and ensuring squad fitness; in the other, the impetus is the opposite, and he should roll out a squad best-fitted to win. The point of balance lies somewhere between the two, but with a weekend off for once, it's difficult to argue if veterans play all 90 (and hopefully a positive 90 and not a negative 90 or a nail-biting 120) against Charleston Battery.
But some rotation will happen naturally. Sebastian Velasquez is a sure-starter in the midfield, and he may just take the place of Luis Gil with no other general changes to the setup. Devon Sandoval might get another chance to start up top after a fine performance in the last round of the Cup. Carlos Salcedo and Kwame Watson-Siriboe, too, may get another chance to partner, allowing Nat Borchers a rest.
Push and Pull
Real Salt Lake has been incredibly successful in moments of transition this season (when, of course, the transition if rom defense to attack) and one might attribute a number of our goals to that fact. But this becomes difficult to manage effectively when the opposition plays withdrawn, and our mode of scoring has to shift. With a tricky midfielder or two — Velasquez and the ever-effective Javier Morales — Charleston's midfield and defense will be kept busy; this leaves important spaces for forwards to run into.
Devon Sandoval could be incredibly effective against this level of side, as well. He's still adjusting to MLS play (though remarkably well, it must be said) but he has a golden opportunity to get in the heads of the Battery defense. With midfield runs occupying some attention, the remainder might be shifted to him, leaving a free forward. His uncanny ability to retain the ball and make a safe if unexciting pass can sometimes be an effect of tentative play, but it's this sort of passing and movement that will have the biggest impact on a less-able defense. He'll push and pull defenders out of position — it's important that he makes the right decisions in that regard.
How many times have we conceded an unnecessary goal at some point in the match simply because it looked like our collective minds were elsewhere? We saw it in the last round of the Open Cup: We can't go around conceding cheap goals and risking a loss or even another overtime excursion. With bodies bursting forward in efforts to score and unlock what may be a staunch defense, the match becomes more difficult to manage.
It'll be vital that, when everyone is forward, the three or so defenders that have stayed back are in good positions to recover and can communicate danger to their teammates. Otherwise, we may be looking at another match where we're on the cusp of something great, but mistakes see us caught out.
Real Salt Lake doesn't have much history in the U.S. Open Cup, but it has had a few good moments over the years.
We've put together a couple of the Claret-and-Cobalt's "Signature Moments" in the Open Cup ahead of Wednesday's fourth-round match between RSL and the Charleston Battery at Rio Tinto Stadium.
May 28, 2013 - RSL beats the Atlanta Silverbacks 3-2 in dramatic fashion in the 2013 third-round.
June 28, 2011 - Highlights from RSL's 2-0 win over the Wilmington Hammerheads in the fourth-round of the 2011 Open Cup. Defender Tony Beltran and former RSL man Jean Alexandre scored for the Claret-and-Cobalt; the goal is the only one of Beltran's career.
Way, way back on July 29, 2006, Real Salt Lake converted a pair of penalty kicks in second half stoppage time to beat D.C. United 2-1 at Rice-Eccles Stadium.
The D.C. player who conceded both penalties? John Wilson, now a defender with the USL Pro Charleston Battery.
Oh, and the color commentator on the broadcast is none other than RSL GM Garth Lagerwey, D.C.'s TV analyst from 2001-2007.
RSL will host the Battery in the fourth-round of the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup at 7:30 p.m. at Rio Tinto Stadium on Wednesday. Click here to get your tickets.
It took a little longer than usual, but Real Salt Lake managed to win its Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup third round match on Tuesday night, beating NASL side the Atlanta Silverbacks 3-2 after extra time at Rio Tinto Stadium.
Here are a few interesting numbers from Tuesday's match:
Tuesday night’s game was Real Salt Lake’s fifth Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup match that went into extra time. The Claret-and-Cobalt played one Open Cup extra time game in 2005, another in 2006 and two in 2010.
9,644 hearty souls braved some nasty weather to attend Tuesday’s match, chanting and singing throughout the 120 minutes of rain, wind and soccer to help propel RSL to victory. Tickets to the June 12 Open Cup match against Charleston are on sale now and can be purchased at the Rio Tinto Stadium box office and over the phone at 801-727-2700. Tickets will be available for purchase online in the near future.
Real Salt Lake Captain Kyle Beckerman played on the outside of the Claret-and-Cobalt’s midfield diamond on Tuesday night for the first time since the 2008 season, when he lined up in front of then-RSL captain Carey Talley. Yordany Alvarez played in Beckerman’s familiar holding midfield spot on Tuesday.
Real Salt Lake midfielder Khari Stephenson’s 101st minute goal – the eventual game-winner – was his first in a RSL uniform. Stephenson joined the Claret-and-Cobalt this offseason after spending the previous two-and-a-half years with San Jose.
Tuesday’s win advanced Real Salt Lake to the fourth round of the Open Cup. The Claret-and-Cobalt will host USL Pro side Charleston Battery in its fourth round match at Rio Tinto Stadium at 7:30 p.m. on June 12. The Battery beat the San Jose Earthquakes – which RSL will take on at Rio Tinto Stadium on Saturday night – 1-0 in South Carolina on Tuesday to advance to the fourth round.
The Battery has a long history of Open Cup success, finishing as runners-up to D.C. United in 2008, making the semifinals in 1999 and 2004 and reaching the quarters in 2007, 2009 and 2010. The Battery has beaten MLS teams nine times in its Open Cup history.
When Real Salt Lake takes the field against the Atlanta Silverbacks in the third round of the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup on Tuesday, they won't be treating it like a glorified friendly. RSL hasn't seen great success in America's oldest soccer tournament, but they are determined to finally make an impact. Last season was a new low: At home, in front of one of the largest crowds to ever witness an Open Cup match, RSL crashed out of the tournament 3-1 at the hands of NASL's Minnesota Stars. This week, team coaches and management have expressed their displeasure with last year's Open Cup performance.
"I think our coach set the tone," said general manager Garth Lagerwey. "That was possibly the worst game of his coaching tenure at RSL. We have to do better. If we want to advance, it starts Tuesday."
The message from last year's disappointment has apparently made its way down to the players. Goalkeeper Josh Saunders, who was not with the team in 2012, joked with reporters that he "hasn't heard anything about" the Stars debacle.
Sebastian Velasquez was a rookie last year, and he had plenty to say about what's going to be different this time around.
"We're coming in different from last year," the player said. "I feel like maybe we didn't take it as serious as we should have. Last year it seemed like our minds weren't in it."
The lack of seriousness last year can be attributed to a bit of complacency that came with facing an NASL opponent. Today the loss serves as a reminder that anyone can beat anyone, regardless of division.
"If you come in and think, 'this is a minor-league team; they're not as talented are we are,' that's how you get tripped up," said Lagerwey.
Head Coach Jason Kreis is the kind of coach who's not going to let his team make the same mistake two years in a row, so it stands to reason that his squad won't be complacent as they take on the Silverbacks.
Several other factors could also help spur on RSL this Tuesday: They have a guaranteed home match in the fourth round if they win, another good crowd is expected on Tuesday, player resources aren't stretched thinner by CONCACAF Champion's League dates, and the squad is noticeably deeper this time around.
"The thing about this team is that any guy that gets put out there is going to give the same performance as a regular starter," said Velasquez. "I think everybody's ready to play, everybody's ready to get minutes, everybody's ready to show the coach that we're on this team for a reason."
The favorable schedule in the tournament, the depth of the squad, and the painful lessons learned last year have Real Salt Lake aiming for big things in a competition they haven't traditionally done well in.
"We're ready, we're focused, we're ready to come out tomorrow and move to the next round," said Velasquez. "This year we want to win the Cup."
A former RSL beat reporter for multiple outlets, Jeremy Horton is a regular contributor to RealSaltLake.com and helps cover the team for ESPN 700 AM.
Need some more background on the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup ahead of Real Salt Lake's third-round match against the Atlanta Silverbacks at 7:30 p.m. at Rio Tinto Stadium on Tuesday?
No worries, give the latest Soccer Smarts with Professor Leo a watch and bone up on all your Open Cup info.
U.S. Soccer on Wednesday revealed the potential pairings and match locations for all 2013 Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup fourth-round scenarios.
If Real Salt Lake beats the NASL Atlanta Silverbacks on Tuesday night at 7:30 p.m. MT at Rio Tinto Stadium it will host either the San Jose Earthquakes or USL Charleston Battery in the fourth-round in Sandy on June 12. The Battery will host the Earthquakes in Open Cup third-round action at Blackbaud Stadium on Tuesday, with the winner advancing to take on the winner of the RSL-Silverbacks matchup in the fourth-round.
Tickets to RSL's third-round matchup against Atlanta on Tuesday night are available for purchase online, at the Rio Tinto Stadium box office or over the phone at 801-727-2700.
Real Salt Lake will learn on Tuesday night its opponent for its May 28 Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup third-round match at Rio Tinto Stadium.
The North American Soccer League's Atlanta Silverbacks will take on the National Premier Soccer League's Georgia Revolution in the Open Cup second-round at 5 p.m. MT on Tuesday, with the winner of the Peach State matchup set to take on RSL in Sandy next Tuesday.
The Silverbacks-Revolution match will be streamed live beginning at 5 p.m MT. Watch the match live here.
Now in its 100th year, the U.S. Open Cup is the longest running soccer competition in the United States. The winner of the tournament qualifies for the CONCACAF Champions League, with this year's champion entering the 2014-14 continental competition.
Tickets are available at special prices for the May 28 Open Cup match and can be purchased online, at the Rio Tinto Stadium box office or over the phone at 801-727-2700. The game is included in the RSL Season Ticket Package as Bonus Game A.
Update: Real Salt Lake will face Atlanta on May 28 after the Silverbacks beat Georgia 3-2 on Tuesday night. Click here for more info.