SALT LAKE CITY -- Real Salt Lake are serious about winning the 2012 Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup.
So it should come as no surprise that they went the extra mile to make sure that their third-round knockout match against the Minnesota Stars was played in the friendly confines of Rio Tinto Stadium next Tuesday.
It was a match that was initially scheduled to be played in Minnesota after a draw conducted by the US Soccer Federation. However, RSL was able to cut a deal with the lower division team to change the site for the single-elimination encounter.
“Our ownership stepped up again, and through the hard work of Bill Manning we were able to get a deal negotiated to host an Open Cup game,” RSL GM Garth Lagerwey told MLSsoccer.com. “I think that shows our commitment to winning. We literally did whatever it took to give our team the best chance to win just a first round game.”
“You certainly have to have US Soccer’s sign-off and approval to get that done,” Lagerwey explained. “It’s a business deal with all three parties: US Soccer, Minnesota and us.”Terms of the deal were not made public.
From Real Salt Lake’s perspective, the agreement reached was solely meant to improve the team’s chance of getting a result.
“It’s purely competitive,” Lagerwey said. “I think, if anything, we’ll lose money on the game, but it’s worth it in the context of trying to win the tournament and trying to send the right message, not just to our players but our fans.”
The Claret-and-Cobalt have never seen success in the US Open Cup. But it’s high up on the priority list this year.
“The Open Cup is a tournament that qualifies our team for CONCACAF [Champions League],” Lagerwey said, “and we say repeatedly that that’s a very important tournament for us and our fans have told us the same thing.”