LEHI (ABC 4 Sports) - The road to the FIFA Club World Cup in Japan came to an end for Real Salt Lake this past Spring. However, tomorrow night RSL begins a new quest to become the best team in North America. All they have to do is win the U.S. Open Cup which is U.S. soccer's National Championship Tournament.
"Anytime we play we want to win," RSL midfielder Ned Grabavoy said. "Whether there's changes to the lineup or not, we feel like we have more than enough talent to do the job."
Winning the 2011 Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup would offer Real Salt Lake a road back to the CONCACAF Champions League tournament, the continental club championship that just eluded the Utah side this past spring. Participation in MLS Cup 2011 on November 20 or claiming the MLS Supporters’ Shield (regular season) title would provide alternate routes for qualification into the 2012/13 edition of the CONCACAF Champions League.
"We put a ton of weight into CONCACAF last year as everybody knows," head coach Jason Kreis said. "This is somewhat of an extension of CONCACAF for us so we view this as the shortest route to get back into that tournament."
This year’s appearance in the U.S. Open Cup proper marks RSL’s first since 2006, the final season in which all MLS teams automatically entered the competition’s earlier rounds. For the last four consecutive years, RSL was forced to try and earn its spot in the domestic tournament as one of at least nine Major League Soccer sides fighting for the two “play-in” positions allocated to America’s top-flight division.
The Claret-and-Cobalt will be going up against USL PRO side Wilmington Hammerheads, which ventured on the road last week to rebound from an 0-2 deficit against the Charlotte Eagles and won on a 3-2 overtime decision in 120 minutes.
RSL was going to get its first look at the Hammerheads during a film session following training on Monday, and players say going up against a team you don't know too much about can be dangerous.
"These games are always dangerous," RSL defender Nat Borchers said. "This is going to be their World Cup. They've put a lot of effort to get here and they're obviously taking this very seriously, as are we."
"These teams you have to put out early," midfielder Kyle Beckerman added. "You really got to get after them and get some goals in early and then you can definitely get on with the game a lot easier."