SANDY — As long as he’s been Real Salt Lake’s head coach, Jason Kreis has talked about the importance of the U.S. Open Cup and taking the tournament seriously.
Whether it’s a coincidence or not, success has never come.
In an effort to motivate his players ahead of this Tuesday’s U.S. Open Cup third-round match against lower division Atlanta, Kreis threw down the gauntlet after last Saturday’s draw with Chicago.
Reflecting on last year’s 3-1 third-round loss to Minnesota Stars FC at Rio Tinto Stadium, Kreis called it “the worst night in the history of the club.”
In what should’ve been a straight-forward match, particularly after RSL ownership purchased the rights to host the game from Minnesota, the players rewarded the ownership with a dreadful performance in front of a huge U.S. Open crowd exceeding 17,000.
With NASL club Atlanta in town for Tuesday’s 7:30 p.m. kickoff, Kreis said a similar performance is unacceptable.
“We’re going to take a very aggressive approach to the tournament this year. We want to win it. I want to win it. The club wants to win it, and hopefully the players want to win it,” said Kreis.
A year ago, the players obviously didn’t share the same important mentality as Kreis and ownership, but he’s doing everything he can to convince them otherwise.
“It’s a chance at a tournament, a chance at a trophy, a chance at allocation money, and a chance to get ourselves back in CONCACAF. There’s a lot of good things about that tournament,” said Kreis. “Knowing that we have the first two games at home could put us a really good place.”
The winner of Tuesday’s RSL-Atlanta match will host the San Jose Earthquakes-Charleston Battery winner June 12 in the fourth round of the 100th Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup. The single-elimination tournament is open to all amateur and professional teams affiliated with U.S. Soccer.
Real Salt Lake’s all-time Open Cup record is 5-8, and the deepest it has ever advanced is the quarterfinals back in 2007 and 2011. The club’s record against minor league teams is 2-2 and its record against MLS teams is 3-6 — two wins against San Jose and one against Kansas City.
RSL is in the midst of a five-game homestand, which could stretch to six games if it beats Atlanta.
The Silverbacks are coached by Brian Haynes, a former teammate of Kreis’ back in Dallas in 1997 when they won the U.S. Open. Their technical director is former U.S. Soccer star Eric Wynalda.
Atlanta is 2-2-1 in NASL play so far this season, and advanced to the Open Cup third round by beating the Georgia Revolution of the NPSL last week 3-2.
Following Tuesday’s match, RSL jumps right back into league play against San Jose this Saturday at Rio Tinto Stadium.