SANDY, Utah — A team made up mostly of Real Salt Lake reserves beat the USL PRO champions, also not at full strength, in a friendly on Tuesday night in a game that RSL coach Jeff Cassar saw as an audition of sorts for the rest of the season.
Cassar came away quite pleased after his team beat the Sacramento Republic 2-0 at Rio Tinto Stadium, especially since Real Salt Lake were relentless for much of the match.
"Stayed committed, stayed pressing," Cassar said of his players. "The second half, we wanted to just not even let them have any joy on the ball at all, and I thought they did that.”
RSL squandered chance after chance for nearly the first hour of the friendly before forward Robbie Findley was taken down in the penalty area and converted the resulting penalty kick. The home team doubled the score when midfielder Sebastian Velasquez fired a left-footed dagger into the top corner in stoppage time, making an impression on his coach.
“Sebastian Velasquez was busy and active in his position at attacking mid,” Cassar said. “These games are huge for players like Sebastian. To finish that goal the way he did, that just builds his confidence and, hopefully, will keep building it moving forward.”
Friendly or not, Velasquez was happy — and relieved — to score his first goal since he scored in the second leg of RSL's Western Conference semifinal win over Los Angeles last November.
“Oh, man, I'm so excited to get back on the scoreboard,” he said. “It's been a while.... I think being able to get on the scoreboard, it gives me a little bit more confidence.”
As Real Salt Lake prepare to travel to Carson, California, to take on Chivas USA on Sunday (5 pm MT; CW30) — where a win will secure the team's seventh consecutive playoff berth — Cassar thinks the win over Sacramento will help.
“I think, more than anything, it's mindset,” he said. “It's a team that we want to come out and be aggressive and not let them have any joy, confidence, right from the get-go.”
One thing RSL will not take from Tuesday's win, at least not in the short term, is the 4-2-3-1 formation the team played — an aberration from the usual diamond midfield setup. Cassar said he changed the formation to fit the personnel available for the friendly. He had a lot of defenders and forwards as his disposal but not as many midfielders, leaving him to change things up.
“No one knew their exact roles. It's pretty easy for the back four, and the two defensive midfielders, but for the other four, it's tough,” Cassar said. "It's something that, hopefully, in the offseason next year we can work on a little bit and see if we can maybe implement that into the way we play at times against certain teams.”