Real Salt Lake continues their quest for their first Lamar Hunt US Open Cup title tonight at home against the four-time USOC winners Seattle Sounders.
How they got here
Each MLS team enters the tournament in round four to take on a side from a lower division, which can include teams from USL, NASL, PDL, NPSL, or an amateur side.
In RSL’s fourth round matchup, they edged out USL side Wilmington Hammerheads in a penalty shootout, after 120 minutes of regular time saw them end in a 2-2 draw. Wilmington took a 2-0 lead with a goal in each half, but substitutions in the 55th minute brought on Joao Plata and Yura Movsisyan which almost immediately turned the game around, as Plata scored a golazo in the 65th minute and Burrito Martinez found the equalizer in the 86th minute to send the game into extra time.
The Sounders took on PDL side Kitsap Pumas in their first game of Open Cup play, and they got a 2-0 win thanks to goals from Cristian Roldan and Joevin Jones. They were locked at 0-0 until the 71st minute when Roldan got his goal to give Seattle what would be the game winner.
Open Cup history
These clubs have only met once in Open Cup play before, when RSL traveled to Seattle in 2009 and the Sounders got a 4-1 win, thanks to two goals and an assist from former Sounder Sebastien LeToux.
Seattle has won the US Open Cup final four times (2009, 2010, 2011, 2014), while RSL has reached the final once (2013) but lost to DC United 1-0.
RSL is 9-2-0 at home in US Open Cup play—their only losses coming against NASL side Minnesota Stars in 2012, and the aforementioned USOC final loss to DC United in 2013.
Lineups and what to expect
Real Salt Lake just came off a 2-0 loss in Dallas after fielding a young team that would give most of the preferred starters time to rest, so we can probably expect a strong lineup and some fresh legs for our starters in hopes of taking care of business without much trouble. However, RSL has a quick turnaround with DC United coming into town on Friday, so we could just as well see a mix of young players and veteran starters to kick the game off tonight.
Tonight will also see the return of captain Kyle Beckerman after his month-long stint with the US Men’s National Team now that Copa America is done and dusted.
The only injuries that affect RSL are Emery Welshman with a hip injury, and Sunny who is out for six weeks with an orbital fracture. We can most likely expect Luke Mulholland to get the starting nod in Sunny’s absence, should Cassar choose to field a full-strength lineup.
Seattle, with a tough matchup on the road against Toronto FC coming up this weekend, could see a healthy mix of preferred starters and younger players to try and keep some fresh legs for their long trip. Coach Sigi Schmid was suspended for the last USOC game, as well as defender Brad Evans, so they will both be back for tonight’s game.
Clint Dempsey is still serving a suspension in US Open Cup play after getting a red card for grabbing the referee’s notebook and ripping it up during a fourth-round game against the Portland Timbers in 2015. His ban was for a total of two years or six matches, whichever is greater.
Seattle has had a rough go in the MLS season so far, sitting in ninth place in the Western Conference, with a record of 5-9-1 and 16 points through 15 games played. Real Salt Lake (8-5-3, 27 points) has played Seattle once this year in MLS already, when the claret and cobalt pulled off a 2-1 comeback win on March 12th at Rio Tinto Stadium, thanks to a game-winning goal in the 86th minute from Jamison Olave.
The road ahead
The winner of tonight’s fifth-round game will go on to face the winner of the Portland Timbers and LA Galaxy, who face off tomorrow night in Portland.
RSL will hope to win their first-ever US Open Cup trophy this year, which will get them an automatic berth back into CONCACAF Champions League for the 2017-18 edition of the tournament.