SANDY, Utah -- Real Salt Lake's management wheeled and dealed - and handed over a handsome amount of cash - to get the U.S. Open Cup clash with Minnesota moved to Rio Tinto Stadium. The idea was that the team wouldn't have to travel and could use the energy from a good home crowd to propel it into the next round.
But after 90 minutes of soccer, it was all for naught.
Minnesota came into Rio Tinto Stadium confident and unfazed, dealing Real Salt Lake a 3-1 loss and sending MLS' point leaders crashing out of the U.S. Open Cup. 17,212 fans, the largest crowd to ever witness a non-final in the USOC, were shocked to see their team manhandled by the NASL opponent from the opening whistle until the final one. And with that manhandling, the sacrifice on the part of RSL's management went out the window.
"We got the game here so we don't have to travel," said RSL midfielder Ned Grabavoy. "And it's just frustrating."
"We owe an apology, first and foremost, to our ownership and management," said displeased RSL head coach Jason Kreis. "They pulled strings and worked hard to get the match here. And we owe an apology to our fans. That was a terrific crowd for an Open Cup match and we let them down miserably."
It wasn't hard to tell which team on the night wanted this game more. Salt Lake is known for its ability to dictate the flow of matches, especially at home, but it was Minnesota that won the second balls, got up higher for headers, and pressured the opponent into turnovers. That lack of urgency was what bothered Kreis and the team's veteran leaders more than anything.
"From minute one to minute 90, it looked like they wanted it more than we did," said Kreis. "We've been preaching the same message for many, many years, which is that if they're not going to be fully committed to the game, we will not get results. Tonight they came in at about 75 percent and thought that was going to be good enough and it clearly was not."
"Guys have to realize that if you're not giving 100 percent work rate, it's not good enough," said Grabavoy.
Real now has 18 days to stew over this result before its next contest. And true to form, Kreis is sure to make certain that his team doesn't forget the painful lesson learned tonight.
"I've said this once before in my coaching career and I'll say it again now," said Kreis. "I would not want to be a player under me right now."
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