Sandy • Amazingly, Real Salt Lake has won three games already this season on stoppage-time winners that delivered 3-2 victories. Twice at home, once on the road.
But the team sure hopes it doesn’t come down to that, next time.
Just three days after defender Nat Borchers became the latest member of the 93rd-minute Club — midfielders Kyle Beckerman and Jonny Steele had delivered the previous stunners — RSL will begin its pursuit of the U.S. Open Cup championship by playing the minor-league Minnesota Stars FC in the tournament’s third round on Tuesday at 7 at Rio Tinto Stadium.
“We need to try to succeed in this tournament,” coach Jason Kreis said.
The U.S. Open Cup is an annual tournament open to teams of all levels throughout the United States. It’s in its 99th edition this year, when Major League Soccer teams such as RSL are entering in the third round after minor-league and amateur teams battled in the first two rounds.
Normally, teams such as RSL are expected to beat lower-level ones such as the Stars.
But RSL will be severely shorthanded, after forward Alvaro Saborio and midfielder Will Johnson departed for national-team duty following the 3-2 victory over FC Dallas on Saturday. Already, midfielder Kyle Beckerman and goalkeeper Nick Rimando were away with the U.S. national team, while midfielder Javier Morales and defender Chris Wingert were out injured.
But Kreis insisted he will put out “nearly the best lineup that we have possible” against the Stars, because “it’s really important to our club” to win and advance.
A victory will assure another Open Cup game on June 5 — RSL would play either the San Jose Earthquakes on the road or the minor-league Ft. Lauderdale Strikers at home — which Kreis views as crucial because his team will not play another league game until June 16 at Chivas USA.
“We need games,” he said. “So it’s an opportunity for us to win this first [game] and get ourselves another game to keep ourselves in the flow.”
The team paid the Stars tens of thousands of dollars to switch the game to Rio Tinto Stadium, after a coin flip determined that it would be played in Minnesota. Kreis was especially pleased about that, considering that traveling for the game on such short notice would have been expensive and a logistical “disaster.”
“It wasn’t going to be an easy situation at all,” he said. “So I’m extremely pleased that our ownership and our management stepped forward to make that happen for us.”
Real Salt Lake vs. Minnesota
P At Rio Tinto Stadium, Sandy
Kickoff • 7 p.m.
TV • None
Radio • 700 AM, 1600 AM, 102.3 FM
Records • RSL 9-3-2, Minnesota 4-0-4
About RSL • It’s riding a six-game unbeaten streak, and has won five straight at home — all in Major League Soccer play. … It’s 4-7-1 in the U.S. Open Cup, and has never advanced beyond the quarterfinals. But it’s 4-1 in tournament games at home, having outscored opponents 10-3 combined.
About the Stars • Defending champions of the second-division NASL, they were allowed to enter the U.S. Open Cup in the second round. … Forward Amani Walker leads the team with three goals and three assists.