SANDY, Utah — That Real Salt Lake and Tigres UANL are meeting in the first round of the inaugural Leagues Cup is fitting, considering their shared history.
In fact, Tigres is Salt Lake's most common opponent outside of MLS, with the teams meeting on Wednesday night (10:30 pm ET | TUDN, ESPN+ in the US, TSN GO in Canada).
That familiarity has led to two things: respect, and transfers.
“(They’re) a wonderful opponent, and quite frankly a respectable and respectful opponent,” RSL GM Craig Waibel said. “They’re an organization that takes great pride in the way they approach the games.”
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Waibel has worked with Tigres a lot over the past few years, seeing two RSL products transfer to the Liga MX side, with one eventually returning.
Tigres backup goalkeeper Eduardo “Lalo” Fernandez came up through RSL’s academy and played for the Real Monarchs before transferring to Tigres in 2017.
“What a really good teammate,” RSL midfielder Kyle Beckerman said of Fernandez. “(He’s) somebody that came to practice everyday with a smile on his face, working hard, taking extra shots after practice and then for him to get an opportunity to go down to Tigres and be a part of that club and win trophies.”
A year earlier, Luis Silva left RSL for Tigres before returning after a single season.
Fernandez isn’t the only former RSL man on the roster. Tigres' new center back Carlos Salcedo, who transferred from Eintracht Frankfurt in January, played two seasons in Salt Lake.
Salcedo left the Tigres youth system and spent a year in RSL’s academy in Arizona before signing a Homegrown Player contract in 2013. Since then he’s worked his way into the Mexican national team and has returned to Tigres.
“He’s done an unbelievable job,” Beckerman said.”I saw him here as a young player learning. He was really hungry and wanted to play right away, needed some time to learn, but he’s really come into his own with the national team in the World Cup and Gold Cup most recently. He’s a top player now, a regular starter with the national team.”
Beckerman said it’ll be good to see both players on Wednesday. All that’s left is to take on Tigres for the fourth time to break their 1-1-1 record.