The possible road back to the U.S. Open Cup final will be unlike the path that led Real Salt Lake there in 2013. After luckily being handed home match after home match a season ago, Real Salt Lake’s quest to eradicate the disheartening end to the tournament starts on the road this time. It will likely continue on the road.
It starts in a place RSL has yet to play in its 10 years as a Major League Soccer franchise, as the club will face the Atlanta Silverbacks of the NASL in the fourth round of the 2014 U.S. Open Cup. Should RSL beat the Silverbacks on Saturday night, it will face either Orlando City (USL) or the Colorado Rapids (MLS) on the road in the fifth round on June 24.
Real Salt Lake at Atlanta Silverbacks
U.S. Open Cup, fourth roundAt Atlanta Silverbacks Park, Atlanta, Ga.
Kickoff » Saturday, 6 p.m.
Live stream » realsaltlake.com
Radio » 700 AM
Last meeting » RSL 3, Atlanta 2 (May 28, 2013)
About RSL » RSL (6-2-7) is winless in its last four MLS matches going into its first Open Cup match of 2014. … Former NASL players currently with RSL are goalkeeper Jeff Attinella, defender Kwame Watson-Siriboe and midfielder Luke Mulholland (all from the Tampa Bay Rowdies). … Should RSL beat Atlanta, it will be on the road in the fifth round at Orlando City or Colorado on June 24. … Forward Devon Sandoval scored the game-winner against the Silverbacks in 2013.
About Atlanta » The Silverbacks earned their chance to host RSL by beating Chattanooga FC 5-0 on the road, but have struggled in NASL play, currently sitting in eighth place with 10 points in nine matches. … The Silverbacks lost to the New York Cosmos in the NASL Soccer Bowl title match 1-0 in 2013. … Forward Jaime Chavez leads the team with five goals scored. … Former U.S. soccer star Eric Wynalda is in his first year as coach.
And it’s no secret by now: The three-week FIFA World Cup break will pay no favors to RSL as the club, undermanned and reeling at 0-2-2 in its last four MLS league games, could conceivably have to take long, back-to-back trips to the South in a 10-day span.
But the team is out to wax positive on the schedule shift.
"I think it’s going to be good," said defender Nat Borchers. "We’ve got a lot of guys who went 90 minutes for three games in a row and we have some tired legs, and injuries right now. It’s going to be good to rest bodies. It’s not really a break, though."
And a long road trip at this juncture will further test the club’s depth against a talented attacking group in the Silverbacks. Atlanta is paced by forwards Jaime Chavez (five goals) and Deon McCaulay (two goals) along with midfielder Blair Gavin (three assists). The Silverbacks are not totally foreign to RSL. The two clubs met in last year’s Open Cup, a match in which RSL conceded two leads but beat Atlanta 3-2 in extra time.
Major questions for RSL will come in form of who is available for this tournament match. Midfielder Ned Grabavoy injured his hip against Portland on June 7, while forward Robbie Findley continues to work his way back from offseason knee surgery. Star midfielder Javier Morales is coming off three 90-minute outings in a week and Joao Plata (hamstring) started against the Timbers, but was taken off in the second half.
"We’re in an OK spot," said Grabavoy. "There’s obviously things we need to work on, but injuries are piling up a little bit."
Either way, getting back to the Open Cup final and trying to forget last year’s 1-0 home loss to D.C. United starts on a rainy, muggy Saturday night in Atlanta.
"It’s a tournament that we’re excited to be in," said RSL coach Jeff Cassar. "We want to win — it’s another avenue to get back to [CONCACAF] Champions League. If you win five games, you get that opportunity. We’re going to try to push as much as we can."
Copyright 2014 The Salt Lake Tribune. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.