It is often repeated but nothing can be more straight forward for RSL, the easiest and most direct path to CONCACAF is to win the US Open Cup. RSL will again start a bid to win the USOC on Tuesday night as they host the USL side Wilmington Hammerheads.
No matter what lineup RSL puts out for the match people will ask questions, should we rest starters with a big match with Portland on Saturday, or with 12 days off should all players be ready to go? I would like to see RSL go with as many starters as possible, with almost two weeks off making sure players are sharp and ready for a very busy couple months with 11 matches before the end of July. That busy schedule could be why Jeff Cassar goes with a mixed lineup to get some of the bench guys minutes as it is likely they will be needed to fill in during the busy schedule.
Wilmington brings in a team that has struggled in USL action with just 16 points in 12 matches, their top scorer is Bruno Peone, which is a bit odd given he is listed as a defender. They are a balanced team with 15 goals scored and 13 goals allowed for a plus 2 goal differential. RSL is sitting with a similar +2 goal differential with 23 goals scored and 21 allowed in their 13 MLS matches.
This is a match that RSL should win with relative ease, but lower division teams tend to put a whole lot into these matches as players look at them as a change to showcase their skills. It could mark the RSL debut for a couple of players, Danilo Acosta (who has 8 matches with Monarchs), Omar Holness (who has 6 matchess with Monarchs), Boyd Okwuonu (7 matches with Monarchs) all come to mind. It could see some guys get some minutes and a chance to impress the coaching staff, Olmes Garcia, John Stertzer, Devon Sandoval, or maybe even Chris Schuler (who has 5 matches played with the Monarchs, 331 minutes). I expect you will see guys like Javier Morales, Joao Plata, Yura Movsisyan on the bench just in case they are needed, should RSL find itself down a goal at any point during the match?
RSL should take this match and should be able to score several goals, based on the past matches against lower division teams we have seen opponents come out with a ton of energy and attack quickly. The last two RSL home matches against lower division teams saw RSL give up the first goal but come back to win both matches (2015 2-1 win over Sounders 2, after giving up first goal in first half stoppage time & in 2013 RSL gave up the first two goals against Charleston before winning 5-2). Not giving up the first goal would be a good thing for RSL, but even if they do this is a match that is a must win for RSL. The US Open Cup is the easiest way to get a trophy and get back into Champions league, something RSL puts a very high value on.
This will be the first match on the new pitch at Rio Tinto Stadium and while RSL practiced on it on Sunday, I expect there will be no issues as the grounds crew is first class.
This is a great match for fans to take in, a chance to usually see some of the lesser known players in action. Plus a chance to check out the improvements to the front of the stadium which should make the overall match day experience a more enjoyable one for fans of all ages.
That’s How I See It