Photo by Stephen Brashear/ISIphotos.com
By TYLER GRAY
Two teams on two very different paths will face off tonight in the hopes of securing the victory in the centennial edition of the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup. Real Salt Lake is the popular choice to win it all, but they’ve had their hearts broken before.
RSL has been one of the storylines of the MLS season. Head coach Jason Kreis has taken what was supposed to be a rebuilding year and kept the Utah side not only in the playoff picture, but with an outside chance at the Supporters’ Shield as well, all while fending off repeated questions about his contract status.
RSL has relied heavily on their young depth to secure results, especially throughout its march to Tuesday night’s Open Cup final at Rio Tinto Stadium. Players like forwards Devon Sandoval and Joao Plata have contributed mightily to the best Open Cup tournament that RSL has ever had.
Real Salt Lake had a decidedly favorable path in the tournament, only facing one MLS team (the Portland Timbers) and never having to leave the friendly confines of Rio Tinto Stadium. They need just one more victory to secure their first championship since their 2009 MLS Cup victory and it will come in a match in which they are heavily favored.
At first glance this is a match that RSL should win easily. United, despite logging an abysmal 3-21-6 record, have miraculously made it to the final and RSL find themselves repeating a bit of history.
RSL was inches away from CONCACAF Champions League glory in 2011. After they had tied 2-2 away at Monterrey, their victory in the return leg seemed all but assured. Things didn’t exactly goes as planned, however, and the sting of seeing Mexican club, Monterrey, celebrate on their home field has lingered with the claret-and-cobalt. Kreis and Co. will look to replace that memory with a celebration of their own.
D.C. United is clearly no Monterrey but the stakes are the same. Win and you’re champions, lose and you go home empty-handed. The team that secures victory will receive $250,000 and a coveted berth in the 2014-15 edition of Champions League.
All bets will be off when the whistle blows Tuesday night and RSL will hold nothing back searching for a measure of redemption.
What do you think Real Salt Lake’s chances are of winning the U.S. Open Cup at home on Tuesday night? Do you see United putting up a test? Who or what is the key to the game for RSL?
Share your thoughts below.