The Team is the Star.
Such has been the mantra at Real Salt Lake for years. On Tuesday night at Rio Tinto Stadium, fans were reminded exactly what those five words mean as RSL bested an LA Galaxy team that features 2014 MLS MVP Robbie Keane and former England and Liverpool captain Steven Gerrard.
The 1-0 victory in the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup sends RSL through to the Semifinal Round and was the type of win that can serve as a catalyst to further success moving forward.
“It felt good. It really did. I just couldn’t be more proud of our players tonight,” RSL Head Coach Jeff Cassar said. “Just the effort they put in on both sides of the ball was outstanding. Our substitutions came on and gave us energy and closed out the game. It was a total team effort.”
That total team effort had been the hallmark of RSL for years. It won the club an MLS Cup title in 2009. It got them to finals in the 2011 CONCACAF Champions League, 2013 U.S. Open Cup and 2013 MLS Cup. And while that mentality still remains prevalent in the RSL locker room, it wasn’t as prominent on the field as it was on Tuesday.
RSL was looking for a response after a disappointing 3-1 defeat to the Colorado Rapids and the reaction from the locker room just three days later was everything the team hoped for. It outshot the Galaxy 16-7. It was aggressive all over the field when it needed to be and patient in other parts of the field when that was appropriate. There was an urgency. A hunger.
“What a response, huh? I don’t think a lot of people outside of this locker room thought we were going to win this game tonight. We did. And it’s on to the next one,” said goalkeeper Jeff Attinella. “It’s two games left and we’ve got a real shot at winning this thing. The response was incredible. In all honesty, I feel like this whole month we’ve been playing good soccer. We had a really bad 10 minutes – a really bad 10 minutes. But besides that we’ve been playing well. We’ve been playing better. And tonight it was a total team effort and … what a win. That should be the thing that jumpstarts the rest of the season.”
If RSL does go on a run, this match can certainly be viewed as a catalyst. But Attinella points to a meeting the team had on Monday.
“We all met as a group yesterday after training and we talked about how a total team effort is what it’s going to take the rest of the year,” the 26-year-old goalkeeper said. “We don’t have guys like Gerrard coming in. All those big signings coming in, we don’t have those signings, so the way that we’re going to be successful in this locker room is a total team effort. Hopefully we can take what we learned tonight because I think everyone there knows that was one of the best games we’ve played all year. We can take what we learned tonight and apply it every Saturday or every Wednesday or whenever the games are and try to turn this season around a little bit.”
RSL’s next opportunity to show those colors in a league match comes on Saturday against the Houston Dynamo at Rio Tinto Stadium. Kickoff is scheduled for 8 p.m. MT with tickets available at RealSaltLake.com.