Sandy • In the final 10 minutes of Wednesday’s match, Real Salt Lake coach Mike Petke stood in the coach’s box, arms folded, watching the minutes wind down on a brief appearance in the tournament.
“It was an opportunity to get guys who have not got any minutes or a lot of minutes this year some minutes,” he said. “I felt comfortable after the first 45. We got back in a good shape, denied a lot from them and then the goal early in the second half killed us.”
For the second year in a row, Real Salt Lake was eliminated from the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup in its tournament debut, losing 2-0 on Wednesday to Sporting Kansas City in the fourth round at Rio Tinto Stadium.
Midfielder Johnny Russell opened the scoring in the 47th minute. Sporting KC defender Emiliano Amor’s pass was chased down by forward Kharlton Belmar right before it crossed the goal line. Belmar’s hard pass through the penalty box was met at the edge by Russell, who headed the cross home in his first match back from international duty with Scotland.
“We definitely shouldn’t let the center back take that much space in our defensive half,” RSL midfielder Nick Besler said of the run that started that play.
Belmar and Russell combined again in the 74th minute to double SKC’s lead. This time, Russell dribbled past three RSL defenders on the right side and sent a pass slicing across the front of the net as Belmar sprinted toward the far post, sliding in and deflecting a shot off RSL defender Adam Henley.
Real Salt Lake, playing its fourth match in 12 days, gave its regular starters a rest as Belser and Pablo Ruiz were the only players with more than three starts this season in the starting lineup. To bolster its bench, RSL signed three Monarchs players to short-term agreements for the game: midfielder Andrew Brody, who started Wednesday’s game, plus goalkeeper Jake Leeker and defender Michael Gallagher.
Sporting KC, the defending Cup champions, rotated most of its starting lineup three days after its 4-1 win over Minnesota in a MLS regular season game Sunday. However, Sporting did leave in captain Matt Besler, making Wednesday the first time brothers Matt and Nick Besler faced each other in an organized competition.
Sporting Kansas City also changed its formation, playing only three defenders instead of its normal four, and started three teenagers including highly-touted midfielder Gianluca Busio, who at 16 years old became the youngest player to start for the club in a competitive match.
Sporting KC has won the Open Cup three times in the past six years and four times overall. RSL has gotten to the Cup final once, losing 1-0 to DC United in 2013. Last season RSL lost 4-1 in the fourth round to Sacramento of the USL.