A chance to make history: or, you know, something like that.
But framing it that way makes the task seem a little daunting, today's match against NASL club Carolina Railhawks. Getting hung up on making history is problematic: It is, after all, some dubious history we'd like to repair; one in which we haven't made it to any position in the somewhat-glimmering cup competition better than the quarterfinals, and even that only the once before this year.
So yes, it's a chance to make history. But more appropriately and seemingly more relevant, it's a chance for Real Salt Lake to win a match and inch closer to a trophy. Given this trophy in particular is one which we haven't won (among all but the MLS Cup), focusing on making history by reaching a semifinal doesn't reach far enough. The historic event would be winning the thing.
If we make the final, that's making history. Before then, let's ditch the narrative and focus on today's match — and if it enables us to continue on a path to an historic achievement, all the better.
* * *
With that out of the way, let's talk about the specifics.
Jason Kreis has said he prioritizes this match over another historic possibility: winning in Canada. That's ostensibly a Good Thing™, and I will not complain if we win today and lose in Toronto because we're too fatigued and we send a weakened squad. Or, at the very least, I will claim that now and complain later, but I shouldn't.
As such, I suspect we'll play something approaching our strongest lineup. That one's pretty clear, and right now — considering injuries — it looks as follows:
Rimando; Beltran, Borchers, Salcedo, Wingert; Beckerman, Grabavoy, Stephenson (or Velasquez), Morales; Saborio, Garcia.
Or at least it looks something like that, with some question about whether Findley or Plata step in instead of Garcia. Tactically, Findley's a solid option, and Plata has great vision, while Garcia's a stronger magic-producing option at this point. But such are our riches that we are in a position where all three of those players might be a good, smart option to partner Alvaro Saborio or perhaps Devon Sandoval.
Further, Saborio played a hard 90 minutes against Seattle and logged time for Costa Rica. Given, also, the dominance of Devon Sandoval in this competition, a switch of Saborio for Sandoval may be a good choice. This isn't to say the young American is better than Saborio — by any means — but that he might deserve an extension of his cup run.
Khari Stephenson may be a better choice than Sebastian Velasquez, but it will inevitably be tempting to have the younger, more spry player out there to tire out the Railhawks, with Stephenson coming on to shore things up later — or, if needed, win the game again with a fantastic long goal.
The final big question: Does Nick Rimando step in for Josh Saunders? Rimando is clearly the better choice, but a long and storied tradition of playing second-choice goalkeepers in lesser competitions often prevails. The question, then: Is this still a lesser competition? Ideally, it won't matter who plays, as we'll simply score a bucketload of goals and be done with it, but something tells me that won't be the case.
Whoever plays, there'll be questions to be answered, goals to be scored, saves to be made, runs to be ... well, you get the picture.
Let's get out there and witness this. It could be the run-up to something historic, but we're not there yet.
By the way, there might be a stream out there. TheCup.us is a good source for this.