FRISCO, Texas - After being placed in Group C of the Champions Division at the Generation adidas Cup, Real Salt Lake knew they would face off against three talent-rich academy teams in New York City FC, Olympique Lyonnais and River Plate.
As a result, RSL needed a comprehensive group-stage performance should they advance to the knockout rounds. What their U-17 team didn’t know is that they’d manage to book a spot in the quarterfinals after just one day of competition.
A shootout win over NYCFC in the opening match, followed by a 1-0 win over Lyon on the same day, meant that RSL’s final group match against River Plate would mean little. Rather, their meeting with the Argentine super-club would just impact seeding.
With that luxury, both RSL and River Plate rotated their squads in Monday’s meeting, and the Argentines won, 1-0. RSL gave Sunday night’s goalscorer, Zack Farnsworth, an extra day to rest before the elimination rounds begin.
“Advancement out of the group stage was a goal for us,” RSL head coach Juan Fresquez told MLSsoccer.com after the match. “It’s important we learn from this loss and limit mistakes like we made today so we can have some success tomorrow [in the elimination round].”
Playing against the wind in the first half, RSL found it difficult to break River Plate’s press. Instead, they relied on strong positional and defensive play from Alejandro Silva and Bobby Pierre to keep the Argentines off the scoreboard.
After the halftime break, RSL tried to pin back River Plate, but it was a Mateo Palomino turnover near his own penalty box which led to Juan Cruz Martins’ game-winner in the 30th minute.
RSL mustered up a late attacking surge from Chris Garcia and Bode Davis, but no equalizer was found. That outcome pushed River Plate to the top of Group C and Real Salt Lake into the runner-up slot.
With group-stage play behind them, RSL now awaits a quarterfinal appearance against Spanish giant Valencia on Tuesday at 6:30 pm ET (streaming on Twitch). Their opponent won Group D of the Champions Division, finishing above Seattle Sounders FC, Montreal Impact and Brazilian side Flamengo.