A quarterfinal match in the first-ever Leagues Cup saw Real Salt Lake fall to Liga MX side Tigres UANL by a score of 1-0, in what was effectively a rematch of the 2016 CONCACAF Champions League quarterfinal.
Mike Petke fielded a pretty strong lineup, with all the usual suspects on the field with a few exceptions, most notably the absence of Albert Rusnak and the presence of Joao Plata in the starting lineup. Erik Holt also got the start next to Justen Glad at center back, while Nick Besler got the start next to Everton Luiz. Kyle Beckerman was slated to start but apparently was a last-minute scratch as Luiz stepped in to fill his position.
Tonight also saw the return of two former Real Salt Lake players in defender Carlos Salcedo and goalkeeper Lalo Fernandez who both play for Tigres, although Lalo didn’t see any playing time while Salcedo made the starting eleven.
Jefferson Savarino found himself on a breakaway in the 23rd minute with wide open space as he headed for a one-on-one with the Tigres ‘keeper, but the assistant referee raised his flag for offside much to the chagrin of the home side’s fans. Replays show he was definitely offside, but it wasn’t by a lot as RSL ramped up their attacking play.
Tigres had their own answers in the form of possession and shot domination, as they logged 63% of possession and sending in seven shots in the first half, while RSL were only able to find two shots. The good news? Both of RSL’s shots were on target, and only one shot from Tigres ended up on frame.
Neither team could find the back of the net in the first half, though, and the two sides went into the locker room at halftime all tied up at 0-0.
RSL thought they had the first goal in the 51st minute when Damir Kreilach let a shot rip from the top of the box that took a deflection and went straight past Tigres ‘keeper Nahuel Guzman. Unfortunately, the deflection it took was off of Corey Baird who was in an offside position, so the assistant referee raised his flag and the goal was waved off.
Salt Lake came within inches again in the 55th minute when Plata stole the ball near midfield and took off down the left side streaking toward goal in a two-on-one situation. Instead of passing the ball off to a wide open Corey Baird, Plata let a shot rip straight through Ayala’s legs and toward goal. He beat the goalkeeper, but hit the far post square on and bounced back out into play.
Just two minutes later, Eduardo Vargas put Tigres on the score sheet thanks to a shot from roughly 25-30 yards out. The ball took a deflection off of Glad’s raised foot, and caught Rimando a bit off his line. An outstretched Rimando got a hand to it, but it wasn’t enough as the ball still sailed into the back of the net, giving the visitors the 1-0 lead.
Tigres almost doubled their lead in the 75th minute when a bad giveaway led to Enner Valencia with the ball streaking toward goal. Rimando came off his line as Valencia sent a shot in, but it just went wide to the right of the near post.
Brooks Lennon was sent off in the 84th minute after an attempted clearance accidentally ended up being a boot to Javier Aquino’s face. Aquino went down with what appeared to be a possibly broken nose, while the referee issued a yellow card. After a few more moments of consideration, the ref ended up switching it to a straight red card, forcing RSL to finish out the game with only 10 men on the field.
RSL couldn’t find an equalizer and the game ended 1-0 with Tigres advancing on to the semifinals to take on Liga MX opponents Club America.
TIG - 57’ - Eduardo Vargas (Enner Valencia)
RSL - 84’ - Brooks Lennon (red card)
TIG - 88’ - Carlos Salcedo (yellow card)
RSL: Rimando; Lennon, Glad, Holt, Herrera; Besler, Luiz (HT Beckerman); Savarino, Kreilach, Plata (63’ Saucedo); Baird (82’ Schmitt)
TIG: Guzman; Rodriguez, Ayala, Salcedo, Torres; Dueñas (17’ Carioca), Pizarro; Damm (73’ Quiñones), Vargas, Aquino; Valencia (78’ Gignac)