With the U.S. Open Cup final coming up in just three nights, Real Salt Lake manager Jason Kreis had little choice but to deploy a team of reserves Saturday against Vancouver.
Still, Kreis probably had to swallow hard in doing so. A quick look at the MLS standings before Saturday’s match at BC Place would show RSL near the top of the West, still with some hope of a conference title and a Supporters Shield.
Plus, keep far enough ahead of the Western Conference pack and the possibility exists that RSL could host the U.S. Open Cup final and MLS Cup in the same season. So, rolling the dice with the young guys was still a risk, even knowing that Tuesday’s Open Cup final (and keeping the top men rested for it) was so critical to the club.
So it really was an outstanding moment in the Real Salt Lake season when the young men came shining through. Real Salt Lake’s 1-0 win at Vancouver has to be one of the club’s top results of 2013, all things considered.
(By the way, Tuesday’s Open Cup opposition, D.C. United, did the same thing in strategically holding back its starters. But resting their best turned out markedly different in a 4-1 loss on the road.)
RSL rookie Devon Sandoval (pictured) had the first-half goal, a sharp header off Lovel Palmer’s perfectly placed cross. Luis Gil (age 19) was such a force in RSL’s young midfield, which kept possession for long stretches of the second half.
As Vancouver was reduced to a scattering of half-chances, the visitors looked more likely to pick up the game’s second goal. RSL’s Joao Plata even cracked one off the near post near the end.
For Vancouver, it is a massive case of “Opportunity lost.” To fall at home is one thing. To go down without a goal to a team full of reserves – even a deep team, full of quality reserves – will only add to the pressure surely mounting on manager Martin Rennie. With trips remaining into Colorado and Seattle, plus home matches with Portland and Colorado Vancouver’s playoff hopes took a huge blow Saturday.
Here is Sandoval’s early goal: