U.S. Open Cup Preview: Real Salt Lake vs. Portland Timbers

SANDY, Utah (Wednesday, July 1, 2015)  – Real Salt Lake continues its three-game, seven-day homestand with tonight’s Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup Round of 16 match against the Portland Timbers at Rio Tinto Stadium, the featured match in an historic doubleheader for Utah’s soccer culture, as the USL Monarchs host defending league champion Sacramento Republic FC at 5:00 p.m. MT in the night’s initial match.

RSL welcomes the Timbers – a team which RSL eliminated on a pair of fronts in 2013, including the Open Cup Semifinal and the MLS Cup Playoff Western Conference Finals – back to Utah, where Head Coach Caleb Porter’s club won, 3-1, last June in RSL’s lone home loss of 2014. A pair of former RSL stars – DF Nat Borchers and MF Will Johnson – now lead Portland, as well as reigning MLS Player of the Week Fanendo Adi and playmaker Diego Valeri.

RSL hopes to improve upon the club’s 4-1-5 home mark in all competitions this season, while the winner of this game will await the result of Wednesday night’s other West region Round of 16 match between San Jose Earthquakes and LA Galaxy to determine the date and time that the RSL/Timbers victor will host an upcoming Open Cup Quarterfinal matchup.

How to Follow Real Salt Lake v. Portland Timbers – #USOC2015 Rd of 16

•   Coverage Begins: 8:00 p.m. MT

•   Web Stream: RealSaltLake.com – Bill Riley & Brian Kamler

•   English Radio: ESPN700 AM (7:00 p.m. MT pregame) – Jeremy Horton & Brian Kamler

•   Spanish Radio: 102.3 La Gran D FM / 1600 AM – Nelson Moran & Fernando Hortal

•   Online: The @RealSaltLake Twitter Feed will provide match updates, as will @opencup

Game Guide for Wednesday’s RSL v. Portland Timbers Now Available Online

Following is the link to the Adobe PDF version of the MLS Game Guide in advance of Wednesday’s contest between Real Salt Lake and the Portland Timbers.

Click here to download the PDF version of the MLS Game Guide for Wednesday’s RSL v. Portland Timbers U.S. Open Cup Rd of 16 matchup

RSL is 4-1-5 in MLS regular-season play so far this season at its Sandy venue, with last summer’s 3-1 Portland win over RSL snapping an 11-game winless streak for the Timbers across all competitions against the Utah side. Since the beginning of 2008, RSL boasts a 90-19-38 mark in its last 147 home games (all comps) in that span, during which it has outscored opponents by 158 goals (267/109), with a 73-14-35 reg. season mark (220/89), 6-1-1 CCL record (17/5), 5-2-2 playoffs (11/4) and 6-2-0 in the Open Cup (18/10).

RSL made its deepest run in the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup back in 2013, winning a series of coin flips and advancing to host the 100th Final in tourney history, dropping an 0-1 decision at home to D.C. United, missing out on a CONCACAF Champions League berth. Later that season, RSL lost a penalty-kick shootout in MLS Cup 2013, becoming the only team out of 11 all-time to have advanced to both the USOC and MLS Cup Finals, but winning neither.

Dating back to 1914, the U.S. Open Cup is the oldest cup competition in United States soccer and is among the oldest in the world. Open to all affiliated amateur and professional teams in the United States, the annual U.S. Open Cup is a 100-plus-year-old single-elimination tournament. In a nutshell, the U.S. Open Cup is very similar to domestic cup competitions popular throughout Europe, South America and the rest of the world. Cup competitions, which usually run concurrent with a country’s league season, are open in the early stages to any club that qualifies, giving local amateur teams a chance to compete against the best teams a country has to offer.

In 1999, the U.S. Open Cup was renamed the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup to honor the long-time soccer supporter and pioneer. Hunt, who died in 2006, was one of the sport’s first major ownership figures in the United States and is a member of the National Soccer Hall of Fame. His family continues to operate FC Dallas in Major League Soccer.

The winning team of the U.S. Open Cup has its name engraved on the Dewar Challenge Trophy, which has been permanently retired and remains at U.S. Soccer House in Chicago. At present, Seattle Sounders FC are the reigning Open Cup champion after defeating the Philadelphia Union to claim the 2014 title - the Sounders’ fourth in the last six years.

In leagues like the English Premier League, Serie A in Italy and the Bundesliga in Germany, cup competitions are prestigious tournaments waged between countries’ strongest teams such as Manchester United, AC Milan and Bayern Munich, and smaller teams like the amateur French side Calais that made it to the finals of the 2000 Coupe de France only to fall to defending champions Nantes on an injury time penalty kick. Watford F.C. in England, was another small-time club that hit it big in 1984 by making it all the way to the F.A. Cup Final. Unfashionable Chesterfield of the Second Division (the third flight in England) advanced to the semifinals of the 1997 F.A. Cup in England before finally losing. And the U.S. has seen its share of Cinderella runs, the most recent of which saw amateur side Cal FC advance past two professional clubs (Division III USL Pro side Wilmington Hammerheads and Division I MLS team Portland Timbers) on its march to the Round of 16 in 2012.

The winner of each country’s domestic cup competition, in addition to taking home the prize money, is automatically placed into a tournament to compete against neighboring countries’ cup winners.

June/July Slate Dictates Home Cooking for RSL; Open Cup / CCL Paths Determined

Following Saturday’s 2-2 home draw with Columbus Crew, RSL moved to 4-1-5 across all competitions at home this season, as Rio Tinto Stadium hosts as many as six of the club’s next seven matches since last Wednesday’s trip to New York. Should RSL win its Wednesday Round of 16 match against Portland Timbers in the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup, it would host the following Quarterfinal match – date TBD – against the LA Galaxy / San Jose Earthquakes winner.

Monday, RSL discovered its 2015/16 Champions League Group Stage competition dates, as the club will face Santa Tecla FC (El Salvador) and Municipal (Guatemala) with two home games and two away scheduled during six possible matchdates in August/September/October. RSL kicks off in Guatemala on Tuesday, August 4 and heads to El Salvador on Tuesday, September 15, before hosting CCL matches – both included in the club’s 2015 season-ticket package – on Thursday, September 24 and Tuesday, October 20 at Rio Tinto Stadium.

RSL’s 2-0 victory over NYCFC back on May 23 kicked off a run that sees RSL play as many as 14 games in 60 days from Memorial Day to Pioneer Day (11 MLS reg. season matches plus three possible U.S. Open Cup contests), all while managing injuries, national team duty and disciplinary suspensions.

Schedule Congestion Catalyst for Squad Rotation; RSL “Maestro” Returns

As a result of the schedule congestion described above, RSL boss Jeff Cassar has distributed minutes all over the roster in anticipation of quick turnarounds and key absences due to international duty, suspension, injury and fatigue, as 23 different players have earned starts for the Claret-and-Cobalt in 2015’s first 14 games, while 27 players – all but GK Lalo Fernandez – have logged MLS minutes in 2015. Saturday against Columbus, homegrown DF Phanuel Kavita made his first-ever league start, while rookie DF Boyd Okwuonu later made his MLS debut as well. Both players made their RSL debuts in the June 16th 2-1 victory over Sounders 2 in the Open Cup.

Returning to action this week is RSL maestro Javier Morales, who sat out Saturday’s 2-2 draw with Columbus after receiving a red card in the 41st minute of the club’s 0-1 loss at New York Red Bulls last Wednesday. Also returning to action is DF Demar Phillips, whose 55th-minute ejection marked RSL’s league-leading fifth red card of 2015, a dubious mark extended to six with MF Jordan Allen’s straight red Saturday, in the club’s 18th game this season.

Morales sparked RSL’s Open Cup comeback two weeks ago against Sounders 2, assisting on the Joao Plata equalizer early in the second half and scoring the game-winner himself minutes later on an indirect free kick play. Days later against Kansas City, the Argentine maestro assisted on both goals by FW Sebastian Jaime and FW Olmes Garcia, the first of the season for each attacker.

In MLS play, Morales now owns 40 goals and a club-leading 70 assists, giving the man who missed all of 2005/06 and most of 2007 and 2011 a foot in nearly 25% of every Claret-and-Cobalt MLS goal all-time. The 35-year old is showing no signs of slowing down, as his game-winning assist June 21 against Kansas City tied him with Kyle Beckerman for the all-time club lead (17 each).

After a scoreless, 9-man effort at New York, both Jaime and Garcia each struck again this past weekend at home against Columbus for their second goals of the season in as many home games in a 2-2 result.