Wednesday evening Real Salt Lake will play host to USL Pro side the Charleston Battery in US Open Cup action, this fourth round match will determine who moves on to host a quarterfinal match up in two weeks. This is one of those matches that the MLS side should win, and with a 10 day break before their next match Real Salt Lake should be able to put our their top notch lineup, now I think a couple of guys like Sebastian Velasquez, Olmes Garcia, and Lovel Palmer might push their way into the starting lineup, as RSL head coach Jason Kreis has a number of great options who have stepped up at every level they have been asked to.
It would be easy for us to think that Charleston doesn’t pose a real threat but you should know that, they have beaten 9 MLS sides in the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup; DC United (1999), MetroStars (2001, 2004), Houston Dynamo (2007, 2008), FC Dallas (2008), Chivas USA (2009), Chicago Fire (2010) and San Jose Earthquakes (2013). You can also add in their preseason matches which often feature MLS opponents, this year one of those matches was a 2-1 win over the Houston Dynamo. A quick look at their roster shows that they have some size that RSL will have to deal with, 8 players 6’0″ or better without counting keepers. They also have some guys with time or trials in MLS:
- Amadou Sanyang – has spent time with Toronto FC and Seattle
- Ben Fisk – time with the Vancouver Whitecaps developmental team
- Jarad van Schaik – who was drafted by RSL but never made the roster
The Battery are currently in 3rd place in USL Pro with a record of 7-3-2 with 22 goals scored and 13 goals allowed.
Real Salt Lake has played in the round of 16 3 other times, in 2005 it was a 6-4 loss at the Minnesota Thunder, in 2006 it was a 2-1 win over the Virginia Beach Mariners, 2011 saw RSL win 2-0 over Wilmington Hammerheads. Overall RSL has a disappointing 6-8-0 record in Open Cup action, but rarely has the team been as focused on the tournament as they appear to be this year. On Saturday after the Galaxy match RSL head coach Jason Kreis had this to say about the US Open Cup:
“The break after the game on Wednesday alleviates my thinking about the fatigue levels. But again it’ll be a conversation with the guys on Tuesday who have played 90 minutes again tonight to see whether or not they’ll be available for selection to start that match or whether they’d prefer to come off the bench. I have a feeling they’re all going to want to play because I think they’re as hungry for this tournament as I am. We’re all very much aligned in it this year with a little bit of a different approach to it this year.”
I think the veterans on the team know this is a chance to lift a trophy fairly early in the season, and it has been 4 years since we have had silverware to add to the collection, so this is one they have their eyes set on. The younger players know it often is a chance to get some minutes them might not normally get and are excited to show the fans and coaches what they are capable of in a real match situation. The extra bonus of knowing that a win in this match will get them a quarterfinal match that will be hosted at Rio Tinto Stadium. We don’t know where the next round of matches will be held as the coin flip process (now used on all rounds) won’t be held until later. The coin flip for all rounds is a new thing to US Open Cup this year, and so far has been very good for RSL, who have won all 3 flips they have been involved with so far. Have to hope that we can keep that streak going as long as we keep winning our matches.
I thought it was interesting that Jason made some comments about potential starters for this match, noting how many players have made starts for RSL already this season in MLS action. He is right, 23 players have started a match for RSL this year already in MLS action, and while a few players are gone due to injury (Rich Balchan, John Stertzer, and Chris Schuler) or national team call ups (Alvaro Saborio, Nick Rimando, Luis Gil and Abdoulie Mansally), the available options are as deep as a coach could want.
RSL has 8 players available who have scored goals this season in MLS matches, more if you include guys who have scored in reserve matches. There are 6 RSL players who have scored at least one goal in US Open Cup action available for the match. It will be exciting to see who gets the call to be involved with the match tonight, there are a couple of things I expect to see as far as the roster goes. Josh Saunders will be in goal, I expect Olmes Garcia to be one of the starting forwards, and the duo of Javier Morales and Kyle Beckerman will likely lead the midfield. If I had to pick the starters, I think I would go with this:
Josh Saunders, Tony Beltran, Nat Borchers, Kwame Watson-Siribore, Lovell Palmer, Kyle Beckerman, Ned Grabavoy, Sebastian Velasquez, Javier Morales, Devon Sandoval and Olmes Garcia
Folks that is a might good lineup and should be able to win any US Open Cup, or MLS match. One interesting thing to keep you eye on is if Kyle Beckerman can score a goal against Charleston, he would become RSL’s all time leading scorer in US Open Cup action. He is currently tied with Andy Williams and Jason Kreis with 3 Open Cup goals.
Last time around we saw a fairly aggressive Atlanta Silverbacks team who played a fairly open style, but I wouldn’t be surprised if the Battery play a bit more defensive minded and look for a chance to counter or capitalize on a set piece or RSL mistake. This is a match that RSL should be able to put away early with a 3-1 win.
That’s How I See It