Kreis: US Open Cup is shortest way back to CONCACAF
LEHI, Utah — Having lost out on this year’s Champions League trophy following defeat to Mexico's Monterrey, Real Salt Lake will take this year's US Open Cup very seriously, head coach Jason Kreis said.
RSL begin their domestic tournament in earnest when they face the Wilmington Hammerheads in at Rio Tinto Stadium on Tuesday night (9 pm ET, listen LIVE).
“We put a ton of weight into CONCACAF [Champions League] last year, as everybody knows, and this is somewhat an extension of CONCACAF for us,” Kreis said. “We view this as the shortest route to get back in that tournament.”
The winner of this year's US Open Cup will earn a chance to qualify for the 2012-13 edition of the CONCACAF Champions League. Following a successful outing on Saturday in which they defeated Toronto FC, 3-1, RSL are heading into their third round matchup against a lower-division opponent feeling confident.
“We’re obviously excited, and we feel like we have a pretty good chance to get a win and move on in this tournament,” midfielder Ned Grabavoy said after Monday’s practice.
In fact, team captain Kyle Beckerman said he hopes the recent win is a sign the team is moving into a new phase.
“It’s a really good start to this new chapter of the season,” Beckerman said. “I feel like we’re headed in the right direction. We’re starting to see some bright lights to get out of it, and so hopefully there is more to come.”
However, despite all the optimism, the squad understands that it has a lot of work to do as it faces a USL PRO side that made it this far thanks to a hard-fought 3-2 extratime victory over the Charlotte Eagles.
“This is going to be their World Cup,” defender Nat Borchers said. “They’ve put in a lot of effort to get here, and they’re obviously taking this very seriously — as are we. We want to get more hardware and put it in the trophy case.”
“You can’t come into games like this [feeling] overconfident,” Borchers added. “You can’t overlook your opponent. They obviously have some players who will be dangerous and if we don’t come out and bring our 'A' game, they’re going to punish us.”
Kreis offered his own perspective on the potential dangers of playing against lower-tier competition.
“As a player, I was involved in so many of these games where you have a lower division team that comes in all hyped up, and essentially what they want is your job as a player,” Kreis said. “I think every one of those players would like to wear the Real Salt Lake jersey and is looking to take someone’s job tomorrow night.”
However, despite the cautions, the team is confident about its chances in the tournament.
Unlike Champions League a year ago, RSL were able to enter the domestic tournament straight in at the Round of 16 thanks to finishing the 2010 MLS regular season second overall. Because of this advantageous seeding, they would only need four victories to take home the trophy.
“We feel like we have more than enough talent to do the job,” Grabavoy said. “We’ve already bypassed some of those beginning games, and we’re in a good position to go far in this tournament.”