Despite sitting ninth in the Western Conference standings, Real Salt Lake coach Pablo Mastroeni still has his sights set on a trophy.
And as the L.A. Galaxy return to America First Field on Wednesday for a U.S. Open Cup quarterfinal matchup, the RSL coach knows this is likely his best chance of fulfilling that dream this season.
“We want to put some trophies in the trophy case,” he said. “It’s a really important game and we’re going to throw everything at it.”
It’s been just one week since the last-place Galaxy dealt RSL a heartbreaking 3-2 defeat in Sandy.
“That game came down to two interesting moments,” Mastroeni said. “You look at that second goal: We had seven guys defending against their four and we didn’t make a play. It’s not effort. It’s not shape. It’s just making a play on that.”
The RSL coach said his team must also be more mindful of former Barcelona midfielder Riqui Puig this time around.
“The one adjustment we need to make is being more aware of where Puig is when they’re in possession,” Mastroeni said. “He did a lot of damage in transition and he finds great positions. So we just have to be a little more keyed in.”
Mastroeni said he believes his squad’s run in the tournament has helped RSL find its form in league play.
“Any time you win, naturally, in our sport it’s the drug we all chase and the only way to get that is to keep winning,” he said. “… And now everyone is contributing both in Open Cup and league play. It’s been a catalyst for us.”
Indeed, RSL rebounded from that midweek defeat L.A. with a weekend road win at Austin FC behind Rubio Rubin’s first two goals of the season.
“The one thing that’s been alluding him is the thing the outside world judges strikers on,” Mastroeni said. “… Everyone outside the locker room had left him for dead. But when no one, and I mean no one, outside of your locker room believes in you and you believe enough in yourself to go out and find positions to score goals and score them, to me that’s the greatest prize sport can give you.”
An Open Cup trophy would be a nice prize, too.
“Teams with legacies start somewhere and it always starts with a championship,” Mastroeni said. “Those are all obviously big picture objectives but it’s got to start somewhere and the only way we can affect that is the now — and the U.S. Open Cup is a great opportunity to do that.”