Real Salt Lake takes first step toward Open Cup with win over Wilmington
Brian Nicholson, Deseret News
SANDY — One down, three to go.
That's the mantra for Real Salt Lake following Tuesday night's routine 2-0 victory over the Wilmington Hammerheads in the third round of the U.S. Open Cup at Rio Tinto Stadium.
"It wasn't a perfect game, it's not a game any of us walk out of here and are ecstatic about it, but we got the job done," said RSL coach Jason Kreis.
Four victories is all RSL needs to win the competition, and it's one step closer after overwhelming the inferior lower-division foe from the USL Pro league
Lifting the Cup would be a nice consolation prize for RSL after coming up short in the CONCACAF Champions League two months ago. The title would also clinch RSL a berth in the 2012-2013 version of the Champions League, an underrated perk to winner.
"We are a club that wants to win trophies, it doesn't matter which kind. So now we're three games away from a trophy and a championship, and three games away from being back into CONCACAF, so we'll put a tremendous amount of focus on that," said Kreis.
Despite Tuesday's win, getting there won't be easy.
As RSL was going through the motions against Wilmington, FC Dallas was squeaking out a 3-2 victory over Orlando City. Dallas will host Real Salt Lake in the U.S. Open Cup quarterfinals on July 12, just three days after the teams meet in a league game at Rio Tinto Stadium.
RSL's all-time record in Dallas, including last year's playoffs, is 0-9-1. That one draw, however, did come this year so there's a glimmer of hope for the visitors.
"We got to win there sometime, this would be a good time to get our first win down there," said RSL midfielder Will Johnson.
RSL got the competition started off on the right foot Tuesday, scoring twice in the first half and then putting it in cruise control the rest of the way in front of 7,620 fans.
It took RSL a bit longer than expected to break the spirits of the last-place team in the USL Pro American Division, but it eventually did.
Tony Beltran opened the scoring in the 40th minute with his first professional goal in any competition. After receiving a Jean Alexandre ball in space at the right edge of the penalty area, Beltran took a few touches and then hammered the ball just inside the near post.
"It's great, I've been wanting to score for a long time and I feel like I've been getting closer and closer and getting more and more confident every game," said Beltran. "Glad I was able to contribute personally, but I'm even more happy we got the win."
After doing a decent job defending with numbers up until that point, the goal was a dagger for the visiting Hammerheads. Four minutes later they found themselves down 2-0 as Alexandre doubled the advantage on an easy finish near the penalty area.
"Those early goals really helped us kill off the game a little bit," said Johnson.
To Wilmington's credit it kept fighting in the second half and didn't concede again.
RSL still had plenty of chances in the second half, including a pair of shots off the woodwork. Johnson was denied by the post in the 76th minute and then Andy Williams was denied by the crossbar in the 81st minute. RSL outshot Wilmington 18-6 and 7-3 with shots on goal.
RSL will now have five days off before jumping back into league play when it hosts New England at 6:30 p.m. on Monday.
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