RSL notebook: Gil's absence opens door for Real Salt Lake's Velasquez to make rare start
Matt Gade, Deseret News
SANDY — Another final, another snake-bit Real Salt Lake midfielder.
Coming off a fine performance last Saturday at Vancouver, Luis Gil seemed like a good choice to crack the starting line-up again on Tuesday in the U.S. Open Cup final. An emergency appendectomy late Sunday changed all that.
Will Johnson was stricken with food poisoning the night before the 2009 MLS Cup final. He ended up starting, but only lasted 45 minutes. RSL captain Kyle Beckerman was suspended for the 2011 Champions League final against Monterrey because of yellow card accumulation.
Gil’s absence opened the door for Sebastian Velasquez to make a rare start. Prior to getting the starting nod in last Saturday’s match in Vancouver, the 22-year-old Velasquez had only made two starts against MLS foes since May 11 — at Dallas on July 13 and at New York on July 27.
He obviously did enough in Vancouver to get the nod ahead of Khari Stephenson against D.C. United.
“For me it was a pretty easy decision, Seba played really, really well at Vancouver and had a big contribution in that win, and confident player we should give the opportunity,” said RSL coach Jason Kreis.
Velasquez was a big bright spot in Real Salt Lake’s attack all night before he was subbed off in the 69th minute. He came inches away from securing the equalizer for RSL in the 59th minute when he uncorked a shot off the post.
Of the 11 starters on Tuesday, he was the only player who also got the start in Vancouver last weekend.
TOUGH TO WATCH: As difficult as it was to watch D.C. United celebrate the U.S. Open Cup title after Tuesday’s match, Kreis said it was important that his players sat on the bench and did so.
“I think that it’s important that you pay your respects to your opponent, who came in here obviously and gave everything they had and were willing to throw their bodies on the line to get a win and to walk away from this season with something,” said Kreis. “Full respect to D.C. United for their efforts and for getting themselves to the final, and full respect to them for winning in our stadium.”
RSL midfielder Ned Grabavoy said the moment certainly wasn't what he envisioned leading up to the match.
“You envision how the game is going to go, how the game is going to play out you envision yourself up there with your team celebrating,” said Grabavoy. “So it’s difficult without question.”
HEAD HONCHO ON HAND: U.S. National Team coach Jurgen Klinsmann was at Rio Tinto Stadium on Tuesday night for a variety of reasons, but the primary reason he said was, “it’s a Cup final.”
“I think it’s nice for me to see those games. I’m watching MLS the same way I watch the games overseas,” said Klinsmann. “It’s a special event for these players, meaning winning a trophy that means something.”
Klinsmann had a meeting with MLS while in Utah, and also chatted with RSL coach Jason Kreis and D.C. United coach Ben Olsen prior to Tuesday’s kickoff — no doubt about personnel.
On Thursday, Klinsmann is expected to announce his 23-man roster for next week’s final two World Cup qualifiers, and RSL’s Kyle Beckerman and Nick Rimando are both expected to be called in.
HIGH PRAISE: Since Klinsmann took over as U.S. boss a couple years ago, Beckerman has been a player he’s frequently called into camps whether he’s ended up playing or not.
Many around the country have questioned whether Beckerman is suited for the international game at age 31, but in a press conference Tuesday Klinsmann shed some light onto why Beckerman has become an importance piece to his squad.
“I am full of admiration for him. You can’t find a better pro. He’s always totally committed and 100 percent focused if it’s in training or it’s in the game or if it’s off the field as well,” said Klinsmann.
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