Thursday , March 06, 2014 - 1:48 PM
SANDY — Jason Kreis went all in, and now Real Salt Lake is poised to reap the benefits.
The Claret-and-Cobalt boss man elected to send out a lineup comprised primarily of reserves during Saturday’s Major League Soccer road match at Vancouver.
In doing so, Kreis kept his First Choice XI fresh for tonight’s 100th U.S. Open Cup final against D.C. United.
“You know we said ‘for the next six weeks that the most important match for us is the Open Cup final,’ and yes we want to compete for the Supporter’s Shield, but for me the chance to win something in a one-off game has to take precedence,” said Kreis following RSL’s 1-0 win over the Whitecaps. “We are also very excited for the opportunity that we have, and really excited to play that matchup in front of our fans.”
Not only did Salt Lake’s “reserve” squard show off the team’s admirable depth, it also puts the Utah side firmly in the favorite column for tonight’s clash.
The winner claims a $250,000 cash prize and — far more important to RSL — an automatic berth in the CONCACAF Champions League next season.
Tonight’s match kicks off at 7 p.m. and will be televised on GolTV.
While the focus of Real and its fans is squarely on tonight’s clash, and rightfully so, the efforts of the Salt Lake players who took to the pitch in Vancouver on Saturday certainly bears mentioning.
After all, the Whitecaps aren’t just a bottom of the table team, but a side fighting for its playoff life.
“Us being able to put anyone on the pitch and still win games is one of the large benefits of having a philosophy of playing in a system that we stick to 90 percent of the time,” Kreis said. “We train all of our guys in that same system, we train all of our guys against opponents system’s within ours. So we know our weaknesses and we know our strengths, so we believe that if we put in the right effort that our strengths will come out.”
And come out they did.
Rookie forward Devon Sandoval converted a ninth minute goal and that was all the Utah side needed to close down Vancouver, ending a two-match losing streak and helping Salt Lake back to the top of the Western Conference table.
“This result was huge for us,” Sandoval said. “Yes, this was our ‘second team’ if you want to call it that, but we’re dangerous still. We were confident going in the game that we could get three points. We were coming off two straight losses and finally got a win. I think we’re back on the right foot and we’re ready for Tuesday.”
The efforts of the 11 players that found the pitch on Saturday also helped Real revive it hopes of claiming the Supporter’s Shield, prospects that appeared bleak just a week ago.
First things first though.
Salt Lake has its eyes on another piece of silverware, and it’s just 90 minutes away.
You can follow Justin Johnson on Twitter at: @jjohnson801 or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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