Real Salt Lake will play its third match of the Desert Diamond Cup on Wednesday in Tucson, Arizona, facing off against Sporting Kansas City with a berth in the tournament championship match on the line.
For RSL, it will be the first match that truly simulates regular season play, with Head Coach Jeff Cassar looking to extend the players to 90 minutes for the first time this preseason.
“We’re not talking about tactics against them at all because we’ll probably do things a bit different than we would normally,” Cassar said after training on Tuesday. “You just want to get the guys a good 90-minute run and try to handle this exactly like we would in an MLS game.”
For most of preseason, Cassar has been utilizing what could be construed as a first-choice lineup on some days, building a rhythm toward the season opener on March 7 against the Portland Timbers. However, he is preparing his whole roster to be ready to play 90 minutes and the competition for starting spots is still in hot contention.
While the club has focused most of training on certain formations, Cassar likes the possibility of shaking things up at times to keep opponents guessing and utilizing the team’s strengths when appropriate. Therefore, he doesn’t entirely view things as split between first team and second team in the two matches remaining in the tournament.
“There are still positions up for grabs. There are different ways that we want to play and there is different personnel involved,” he said. “We can put out a lot of players to play the way we want to. I think we have a lot of options to choose from. It’s down to myself and my staff to choose the right combination of players on the field.”
After facing Kansas City on Wednesday, RSL will learn its fate for the final match on Saturday. A win or draw will put Real in the tournament championship at 8 p.m. With a loss, RSL’s standing will depend on the outcome of the two other matches of the day. RSL currently leads with two wins in two matches.
All of RSL’s matches will be streamed live on RealSaltLake.com.
Feb. 18 – Real Salt Lake 1 vs. New England Revolution 0 (Sandoval, 7’)
Feb. 21 – Real Salt Lake 3 vs. FC Tucson 1 (Saborio, 41’, 58’; Sandoval, 68’)
Feb. 25 – Real Salt Lake vs. Sporting Kansas City – North Stadium at Kino Sports Complex – 8:00 p.m.
Feb. 28 – Real Salt Lake vs. TBD