It’s been a long, slow climb back up the mountain for Real Salt Lake. Now they’re just one step from the very top.
RSL will host the US Open Cup final, and take yet another crack at getting their second piece of silverware after a back-and-forth 2-1 semifinal win over the Portland Timbers on Wednesday night in front of nearly 15,000 fans at Rio Tinto Stadium. All that stands between RSL and their name on a trophy are D.C. United, who were surprising 2-0 winners over the Chicago Fire earlier in the night.
“It’s huge for the club. It’s huge for the team. We really deserve something like this,” said veteran ‘keeper Nick Rimando, one of the holdovers from the 2009 MLS Cup win that remains the club’s only major trophy. “The guys have been playing really hard and putting in a lot of work in the trainings this year. We’d been coming up short a couple of times in the years past, so it’s good to get back to a final.”
It might take a more even effort in the final than what they were able to bring forth against the Timbers in the semis. Alvaro Saborio gave the hosts an early lead, and Joao Plata’s second-half golazo turned out to be the game-winner, but in between RSL were often chasing the play, and relying heavily upon Rimando – a recurring theme recently.
That didn’t escape the notice of head coach Jason Kreis.
“It was disappointing that we couldn’t close out that game without being scored against at the end of the match,” he offered. “There has to be some mistakes that we need to work on again. Maybe we were a bit looser, because we had a two-goal lead, but I doubt it. I bet we’re making similar mistakes.”
Regardless, they’ll now have two months to correct whatever it is that’s made them defensively fragile before United come calling. Rimando, for one, seems determined to make sure that his team stays focused in the interim.
“It’s not done yet. Our goal wasn’t to get to the final, it’s to win it,” he said.
Kreis offered context for the sentiment.
“Looking back and thinking about this a lot today, we’ve had a lot of really momentous occasions in this building over the past several years, a lot of big games that we’ve looked forward to and we did a lot of talking about,” Kreis explained. “And often times we’ve felt that all we needed to do really was show up, and we would win.
“And this will be the same type [of] match. We’ll be playing against a D.C. United team that has struggled this year. It’ll be in our building, we’ll be the favorites, and we’ll see if we can do what we’ve never done before – which is actually win one of those damn games.”