SANDY, Utah — Real Salt Lake endured a disappointing 3-1 home loss to the Minnesota Stars FC in Lamar Hunt US Open Cup action at Rio Tinto Stadium on Tuesday, exiting the 2012 edition of the tournament at the first time of asking.
The bleeding started early as Minnesota jumped on the board in just the third minute. The Stars had a free kick from 30 yards out which was initially knocked away by goalkeeper Kyle Reynish, only for midfielder Kevin Venegas to get a head on the rebound and put it into the net for the early lead.
The Minnesota defense was compact and organized throughout the match, and nothing came easy for the Claret-and-Cobalt, even as the home side showed off its trademark possession game.
However, in the 29th minute, Luis Gil fired a laser from 25 yards out that was low and to the right of keeper Matt VanOekel to equalize. That brought the sizeable crowd into the match, but the air would be sucked right back out of it just before the half as Minnesota again went up a goal.
The score came on a counterattack played into space to forward Amani Walker. Jámison Olave appeared to have him pinned to the right of goal, but Walker’s attempted square ball to a teammate connected with Olave’s hand earning the Stars a penalty kick. Neil Hlavaty converted to hand Minnesota a 2-1 advantage just prior to break.
RSL brought renewed energy out of the half, but lacked the timing and quality to find an equalizer. Instead, Minnesota stretched their lead in the 58th minute with a cross put into the area. Second-half substitute Simone Bracalello was marked just outside the six-yard box, but stuck his foot out and made contact with the ball, deflecting it into the net.
Real Salt Lake mounted an urgent response which lasted for much of the remainder of the game, but were unable to beat the visitors' well-organized defense.
Minnesota move on to fourth round action, where they will face either the San Jose Earthquakes or Ft. Lauderdale Strikers, while RSL will enjoy a break before resuming league action.