SANDY — Every team in MLS will say it wants to win the U.S. Open Cup, and it’s probably a genuine sentiment. Actually doing what is necessary to win is a completely different story.
If history is any indicator, MLS teams will trot out a lineup of primarily reserves in U.S. Open Cup Fourth Round matches this Tuesday and Wednesday — the round MLS teams join the tournament. It will likely be the same approach in the Round of 16 in two weeks.
Particularly in early round, midweek Open Cup matches, MLS teams almost always prioritize their lineups for the weekend league matches instead. That’s why Real Salt Lake and Kansas City both figure to trot out reserve-heavy squads for their fourth-round game at Rio Tinto Stadium on Wednesday (8 p.m.).
The fourth round of the U.S. Open Cup takes place this Tuesday and Wednesday with 16 matches scattered across the country. Four of the 16 matches involving MLS teams squaring off against each other, while the other 12 involve an MLS team against a lower-division opponent.
Upsets always happen.
Over the last five years, MLS teams lost to a lower division foe on average three times per year during this stage of the tournament. In 2012, it was a bloodbath as MLS teams went 8-8 in this round.
RSL was one of those teams to lose to a lower-division team in 2012, and then again in 2014 and then again in 2017.
Historically, it has been a feast or famine for RSL in the U.S. Open Cup. In 2013 it lost in the championship to D.C. United and then in 2015 it lost to Kansas City in the semifinals. On one other occasion, back in 2011, it reached the quarterfinals, but the other four years it lost either its first or second Open Cup game.
RSL coach Mike Petke would love to put his best foot forward against rival Kansas City on Wednesday, but that’s probably not realistic.
Last week RSL played three games over an eight-day span, winning all three to vault into third place in the Western Conference. Sandwiched in between last Saturday’s win over Seattle and this Saturday’s trip to Los Angeles is the inconvenient Open Cup.3 comments on this story
“There’s a lot of guys that aren’t going to be going to be able to be available for the game. I’m not going to say who but I’m going to put the best team that I can out there without sacrificing injuries, without sacrificing the LA game on Saturday so we're going to give it a go and see what happens,” said Petke following Saturday’s win over Seattle.
He suggested that his lineup could be a mixture of Real Salt Lake and Real Monarchs players, even though Monarchs players over 25 years old are ineligible to participate.
Whoever Petke starts will likely have MLS experience as 23 different players have seen the field in league games in 2018 because of injuries.