In the run up to the US Open Cup Semi-Final against Sporting Kansas City on Wednesday August 12th at 6:30 pm MST, Real Salt Lake Coach Jeff Cassar rolled out a 2nd string team against the Western Conference leading Vancouver Whitecaps in Canada this past Saturday. The team looked like they hadn’t had much time playing together and they were beat soundly 4-0. Cassar was obviously resting his regular starters who had just played a CONCACF Champions League in Guatemala on Tuesday where they won 1-0.
The big gamble for Coach is if RSL fails to win and advance to the Open Cup Final they also just threw away competing for some very valuable points by playing that team of subs. In my estimation, Cassar basically said, “I want to win on Wednesday. The best way to do that is by resting my regular starters. I am not trying to win this game. If we come away with a point, awesome.” Well, that’s what he was saying the first 30 minutes or so until he got red carded and sent to the locker room.
Never mind that RSL has given up 10 goals in league play over their last 2 away games. Dropping points north of the border resulted in losing a spot in the MLS standings to 8th place. They now sit behind Houston, who has 2 more points and a game in hand. The playoffs are now that much further away.
Real Salt Lake has only Western Conference foes on left their schedule. There are 10 games (30 possible points) remaining, 8 of which are against opponents ahead of them in the standings. All the while, Colorado and San Jose are only 5 and 3 points behind respectively and have only played 22 games compared to RSL’s 24.
The outlook is bleak at best for the playoffs. Throwing away potential points is a bold move especially when playing a US Open Cup semi-final in a hostile environment. It will be a true test for a team struggling on the road. RSL took 7 points from SKC this season in league play. Can they nab another win on Wednesday in Kansas? Jeff Cassar better hope so. His job may depend on it. The game will be available for streaming on www.ussoccer.com and www.YouTube.com.