It’s only July, but Real Salt Lake have had the wind taken out of their sails a number of times already this season, the latest letdown a disappointing 2-0 loss away to FC Dallas in the US Open Cup quarterfinals. The defeat ends RSL’s hope of returning to the 2012-2013 CONCACAF Champions League by way of the Open Cup champion’s automatic berth in the tournament.
“I think it’s a trophy with a pretty significant person in the history of our league’s name on it,” head coach Jason Kreis said of the Cup, named after league pioneer Lamar Hunt. “And I think it’s an opportunity for our players to earn money, prestige and it’s an opportunity to get back in the CONCACAF tournament, and so all of those things made us want to take it seriously. And you saw that with the lineup we put out there.”
This latest disappointment comes in a place where the club have suffered plenty of them. Although they managed to earn a draw in Frisco, Texas, earlier this season, RSL’s previous nine road games against FC Dallas — including the playoffs — had ended in losses, the most recent a 2-1 loss in the first leg of the 2010 Western Conference semifinals.
“I think the energy level tonight,” Kreis offered as the primary main culprit for the loss Tuesday. “We’ve seen it lots, and lots of times here in Dallas, where we just can’t get our energy level right. And I think it presents its difficulties with the weather for us, and it certainly did tonight. So if we don’t have the right energy and mentality for games, we often times don’t get results.”
The home side exploited the RSL’s sluggish start when Jair Benítez struck in the 18th minute with a curling free kick from 25 yards out. FCD’s Jackson, who had been subbed on as a striker for Marvin Chávez to start the second half, added a second in the 54th.
"I think a big factor tonight was our possession game," defender Nat Borchers said. "I don’t think that we were as good as we normally are with possession. Giving up the first goal against a good team like Dallas is always tough. They scored a fantastic free kick. After that we were under it, and I don’t think we responded as well as we wanted to."
Without the hope of an Open Cup title, the team will move forward with MLS Cup and the Supporters’ Shield as their incentive to perform. Both honors would also earn the Claret and Cobalt a berth in the Champions League.
“It’s important how we respond,” Kreis said. “Tonight, that was, for me, a game where we didn’t put in the right energy. There were a lot of things that just weren’t right with it. We need to move forward, we need to move forward quickly, and we need to move forward together. That was the reason we had a long chat with the players just now.”