Real Salt Lake made a winning return to the Lamar Hunt US Open Cup proper.
Jean Alexandre set up Tony Beltran’s 40th-minute opener – the left back’s first professional goal – and doubled the lead with a goal of his own 4 minutes later in a 2-0 victory over the Wilmington Hammerheads in front of 7,620 fans Tuesday night at Rio Tinto Stadium in Sandy, Utah.
By winning their first Open Cup match since 2006, RSL earned a quarterfinal matchup against FC Dallas in Frisco, Texas, where the Utah side has never won. Salt Lake is 0-9-1 all-time in road games against Dallas, with the lone result a 0-0 draw on May 23. Coincidentally, the teams meet in an MLS match three days earlier at Rio Tinto.
Real Salt Lake’s lineup featured primarily regular starters, as the team is focused on the Open Cup and its connection to the CONCACAF Champions League. RSL lost in the finals of the 2010-11 tournament, but failed to qualify for the 2011-12 event. The Open Cup champion earns a berth in the 2012-13 tourney.
Alexandre and 17-year-old strike partner Luis Gil each had early chances for RSL, but the match remained scoreless until Beltran opened his account. The third-year pro took a pass from Alexandre on the right side, beating Hammerheads goalkeeper Kyle Polak with a close angle shot to the near post, just outside the 6-yard box.
Then in the 44th, Canadian international Will Johnson played in Alexandre, who worked past a defender and pulling Polak off his line, to increase the lead to 2-0. It was the second goal of the season for the 24-year-old Haitian.
USL Pro side Wilmington, which brought only 15 players to the match, got an impressive performance from Polak and some luck as RSL fired away – the home team had an 18-6 advantage in shots, including 9-1 in the second half, and saw blasts by Johnson and Andy Williams crash off the woodwork in the final 20 minutes.
On one sequence in the 78th minute, Polak stopped back-to-back shots by Williams and Johnson and then watched Alexandre’s header flash just wide of the goal.
RSL backup keeper Kyle Reynish earned his second shutout in as many appearances this season. The crowd for the first Open Cup match at Rio Tinto was easily the largest among the seven MLS teams that played host to third-round games.
TheCup.us Match MVP: Jean Alexandre
Real Salt Lake – Tony Beltran (Jean Alexandre) 40
Real Salt Lake – Jean Alexandre (Will Johnson) 44
Real Salt Lake: Kyle Reynish; Tony Beltran, Rauwshan McKenzie, Nat Borchers, Chris Schuler (Robbie Russell 63); Andy Williams, Kyle Beckerman (Ned Grabavoy 63), Collen Warner (Nelson Gonzalez 74), Will Johnson; Jean Alexandre, Luis Gil. Substitutes not used: Tim Melia (GK), Artur Aghasyan, Jamison Olave, Donny Toia.
Wilmington Hammerheads: Kyle Polak; Tom Parratt, Ivan Becerra, Gareth Evans, Dylan Riley; Emanual Guzman (Jyler Noviello 60), Tom Taylor (Richard Jata 52), Paul Nicholson, Hakop Avesyan (Julio Cuero 74); Luke Mulholland, Andriy Budnyy. Substitute not used: Chris Banks.
Discipline: W – Taylor (caution-reckless foul, 17); W – Guzman (caution-reckless foul, 35); RSL – Grabavoy (caution-tactical foul, 68); W – Nicholson (caution-persistent infringement, 83).