The Xango Cup, a series of summer international friendlies, was very good to Real Salt Lake in 2007. A year later, things haven't started off nearly as well, but in reality Wednesday's result was probably always a forgone conclusion.
RSL planned on using the international friendly against Mexican champion Santos Laguna to give several youngsters some much-needed playing time. Santos, meanwhile, played to win by starting its first choice 11 in its final tune-up match before this weekend's kickoff of the second-annual SuperLiga.
Obviously, the more experienced Mexican champs prevailed.
Santos Laguna dominated throughout, netting two goals in the first half and cruising to the 4-1 exhibition victory over Real Salt Lake in front of 12,333 fans at Rice-Eccles Stadium.
"Our guys really since Friday of last week were already focused on this Saturday night's game (against Columbus)," said RSL coach Jason Kreis. "That is how we had to play this game; we had to focus on this game as a training exercise."
Kreis acknowledges that some players may have approached the match a little too nonchalantly, though.
"In the end, we can look at this as a positive, a statement to us about that if our good players don't come out and show up and give a real strong effort then they're going to get their butts kicked," said Kreis.
"We're not good enough yet to go into games relaxed and think we're going to go out and have some fun and knock the ball around and be successful."
After overcoming a few brutal touches on the unpredictable turf in the early going, Santos settled in and used its pace and quick technical ability to control the match.
Its first goal, ironically enough, was an own goal. RSL rookie defender David Horst knocked a Santos driven cross into his own box in the 12th minute, seemingly surprised that the ball wasn't intercepted sooner by RSL keeper Chris Seitz.
"I think a couple of the younger guys were rattled from minute one. We came into this game to try to learn some things about ourselves, and we did that, and one of them is some of our younger players aren't quite ready," said Kreis.
Santos doubled its advantage in the 34th minute when Oribe Peralta uncorked a scintillating long-range shot from 30 yards out that sailed over Seitz and into the back of the net for the 2-0 lead.
RSL had a handful of scoring opportunities in the first half, but its two best opportunities were each turned away on diving saves Santos keeper Oswaldo Sanchez a Mexican National Team veteran of two World Cups.
Throughout the second half, both teams gradually utilized its allotted nine substitutions. Santos coach Daniel Guzman used them to put younger players in the match, while Kreis did a little bit of both. In addition to giving a few more youngsters minutes, he also inserted several other first-teamers to keep them sharp for this Saturday's league match.
While Chris Wingert, Javier Morales, Dema Kovalenko and Kyle Beckerman all played in the first half, Andy Williams, Kenny Deuchar, Nat Borchers and Tony Beltran all saw significant minutes in the second half.
Salt Lake successfully pulled a goal back and made it 2-1 in the 70th minute when 18-year-old rookie Alex Nimo, who stands only 5-foot-5, headed in a Williams swerving corner kick.
Any hopes of a comeback, though, were quickly subdued for RSL when Santos' Gregorio Torres scored a beautiful goal in the 73rd minute on an assist from Christian Benitez. Ten minutes later, Santos scored again as Andony Hernandez scored on another assist from Benitez.
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