SANDY, Utah — When Real Salt Lake takes the field Tuesday night in the US Open Cup final, they will be taking on a pair of opponents: D.C. United, for one, and past home failures in big games for the other.
"I think for me we have had three opportunities to win trophies in our building," head coach Jason Kreis told reporters on Monday. "Starting with 2008, we had a chance to win the Western Conference final to go into the MLS Cup, 2011 we had a chance to win the CONCACAF [Champions League] final here in our building and now for me, this is the third opportunity to win a big trophy in our stadium."
Real walked away with bitter 1-0 losses in both the previous chances they had to win a trophy at home. With many veterans that were on the pitch for both those defeats and are expected to suit up against D.C., they know they may not get another – or a better – chance to hoist some hardware.
"Some players only get a Cup finals once in their career and you really have to relish the moment, and especially to be able to play the game at home is fantastic," said defender Nat Borchers.
Added midfielder Javier Morales: "We have a big opportunity. You don't get a chance to play a final in front of your fans every week or every year, so [Tuesday] is going to be very important for everyone."
Along with Borchers and Morales, RSL veterans Kyle Beckerman, Tony Beltran, Chris Wingert and Nick Rimando were all part of the club that lost both those games, and several more like Alvaro Saborio and Ned Grabavoy were a big part of the 2011 letdown.
"I don't think individually we can look at those games and say, 'This is what we should learn from that or that is what we should learn from that,'" said Kreis. "I think collectively the message for me is don't ever take anything for granted."
RSL are the favorites against United. Besides playing at home, they have been one of the best sides in MLS this season (15-10-6, 51 points), while D.C. (3-21-6, 15 points) are dead last. In fact, United have beaten as many MLS teams just to get to the Open Cup final as they have all season.
But RSL know that records can sometimes be deceiving and are not overlooking a team that still has talented players such as Dwayne De Rosario, Chris Pontius and Nick DeLeon."I know they beat us when we went away and played them at their place," said Borchers. "I know they have some dangerous players. I know we're not going to play the game looking at their record and getting overconfident. We are going to respect them."
So while RSL still have an outside shot at a Supporters' Shield, and are gunning for a second MLS Cup, the opportunity to put another trophy in the case on Tuesday is the real focus.
RSL want to walk off their home pitch carrying the prize.
"I think it continues to demonstrate that we are about winning things here," said Kreis. "It continues to demonstrate that our philosophies are working and are giving us opportunities to win things."