Soccer: RSL sets sights on Open Cup final
Javier Morales stayed on the ground near midfield as the game continued around him.
When the ball was finally played out Saturday night, the Real Salt Lake midfielder walked gingerly off the field, exiting the game after only 24 minutes of action.
Under other circumstances, the veteran Morales might have played through the tightness in his right adductor. But RSL coach Jason Kreis wanted to be careful.
"There's no doubt Wednesday is the most important game of the week, and probably the month," Kreis said after a 2-2 draw with rival Colorado that cost Salt Lake its grip on the Rocky Mountain Cup. "I'm hoping it was precautionary, I'm hoping that we got him out early enough and that we don't have problems for Wednesday."
Come midweek, Salt Lake will have a chance to move on to the U.S. Open Cup final.
RSL has been the beneficiary of good luck throughout the tournament, drawing a series of minor league teams and never having to play away from Rio Tinto Stadium, thanks to a series of fortuitous coin flips.
Salt Lake advanced further in the Open Cup than it ever had before and now faces the Portland Timbers, an MLS foe captained by former RSL midfielder Will Johnson, and a squad just trailing RSL in the league table.
If Salt Lake wins, the team would host the winner of the semifinal between the Chicago Fire and D.C. United for the championship.
"I think it's the most important game of the year so far," RSL goalkeeper Nick Rimando said. "To be able to have a chance to hoist a trophy in your home stadium is a huge opportunity and if we play right on Wednesday we have that chance to do that at home in the final. Portland's a very good team; we're not taking them lightly at all."
Kreis has been vocal about his desire to win the Open Cup, a tournament that would give RSL its first trophy since it won MLS Cup in 2009, a chance to return to CONCACAF Champions League, and critical allocation money.
"It's a huge game coming up and I think everyone in this locker room knows it," Rimando said Saturday. "Right away the talk in the locker room was to get prepared for Wednesday."
Portland Timbers at Real Salt Lake
P U.S. Open Cup semifinal
• Wednesday, 7:30 p.m.