RSL aims to use U.S. Open Cup as way to return to Champions League
It still has two Major League Soccer games to worry about first, but Real Salt Lake is starting to shift its focus seriously toward winning the U.S. Open Cup in order to secure another berth into the CONCACAF Champions League.
"We're a team that wants to win trophies," coach Jason Kreis said. "It doesn't matter what kind. We're three games away from a championship and three games away from being back" into Champions League. "So we're putting a tremendous amount of focus on it."
The path won't be easy, though. RSL must face nemesis FC Dallas on the road in the tournament quarterfinals on July 12 just three days after meeting the Hoops at home in a league game having never beaten the Hoops away from Rio Tinto Stadium. However, the team did finally snap a nine-game losing streak with a scoreless draw on its last visit.
"That's an extremely difficult opponent for us," Kreis said. "Their strengths are getting at some of our weaknesses. We do have to have a little bit of positivity about that game because we got a good result there the last time we were there."
If RSL does win, it will advance to meet either the Los Angeles Galaxy or the Seattle Sounders in the semifinals on Aug. 30. The tournament final is scheduled for Oct. 4.
Young and fast
Teenager Luis Gil has started the past two games at forward for RSL, and has made a good impression with his speed and tenacity.
The only thing missing now is goals.
Gil bemoaned his missed chances following the U.S. Open Cup victory over Wilmington on Tuesday night, but said he's getting more comfortable playing forward instead of midfield. His emergence up top along with converted defensive midfielder Jean Alexandre has improved the team's depth at a time when most of its regular forwards are battling injuries.
"He just fights," Kreis said after Gil started in a league victory over Toronto last weekend. "He's been fighting for us now for a while in our training sessions, and he was really good with the ball. His possession percentage of completed passes was extremely high, and we need that. We need players like that on our team."
Forward Chris Agorsor is only one of three recent trialists who's still with RSL not signed, just still on trial and the team has brought in another trio this week, as the summer transfer window approaches.
Midfielders Carlos Hernandez and Dustin Correa are getting their shot with RSL, along with left back Seth Owusu.
Hernandez is a Costa Rican international who played in the 2006 World Cup alongside RSL's Alvaro Saborio, while Correa has played for youth national teams in both the U.S. and El Salvador. Owusu is a native of Ghana who recently was cut by Chivas USA.
New England at RSL
P Monday7 p.m.