SANDY — Real Salt Lake coach Mike Petke said Wednesday's game at Sacramento Republic FC in the U.S. Open Cup will be a chance for some Real Monarchs players to show their worth with the first team.
The game will be RSL's first in the tournament, which brings in MLS teams in the fourth round.
With the team split into two groups, one traveling to Sacramento, and some players staying back to train for the team's game against Minnesota on Saturday, Petke said the integration of Real Monarchs into the RSL rotation should go smoothly, as the players on both teams play a similar style, if not identical.
"There have been players going up, players going down," he said, adding, "We know the Monarchs players who I’ve had the pleasure of working with for a while early on, have done very well, and they deserve to be a part of this Open Cup, and any way we can get them involved.”
With a roster spread thin into two groups, the game will be a chance for players to get an opportunity to play up in the roster, and possibly earn more playing time in the future.
"We have also guys travelling with us that perhaps are not getting the minutes that they want so this is their opportunity to prove it as well. So you put it all together, and their energy and their work rate and their readiness should be there," Petke said.
Though the team appears to be experimenting with the lineup more than in a normal MLS game, coach Petke is well-aware that RSL needs to be in solid form to beat Sacramento.
Sacramento has one of the best home atmospheres in the USL, and the team realizes the fans and players will be hungry for an upset.
"Sacramento is a very good, very hard-working and very talented group, and they have a major league environment that they play in," he said.
Though considered the favorite because RSL plays in America's top league, Petke said, the team should not get cocky, and he is attempting to make sure the players selected are fully ready for a competitive game.
"Traditionally, there are tons of upsets in this tournament early in the rounds because one team doesn’t get up for it, and the other team does," he said.
Beside Monarchs and lower-tier RSL players getting a chance in the rotation, RSL will be glad to have returning contributors from the U.S. Men's National Team U-20 World Cup roster.
The team reached the quarterfinals of the tournament before losing to Venezuela. In all, five players returned to the team after impressive performances.
Forward Brooks Lennon, who started all five games for the USMNT, and scored twice and assisted three times in the Cup, said that lessons learned by the five returning players will be crucial in the success for the team going forward.
“The success we had over there, we just need to continue the mentality we’ve been having in training sessions, and coming back here we need to fight for our positions every single day, up the level of energy in training. And I think us young guys, we can do that, we can push the older guys and together we’re going to be better for that.”
Defender Danilo Acosta, who also started every game for the National Team said returning to training was a bit tough, after playing five games in fifteen days, but that once everyone got back to the field, things clicked.
“Physically I feel alright. I was pretty tired but now that I’m back it’s better. Now I try to do everything possible to get my legs back and be back for training.”
RSL has struggled a bit of late, losing its last two games by four goals consecutively. Lennon said he watched every game when he had time away from the National Team, and was anxious to get back and start making a difference for the club.
"I knew coming back that we were going to have to help out coming back here, and we start in training so we just need to up the energy level and we’ll be ready to play.”
In terms of integrating the national team players back into the rotation, Petke said the players are fitting right back in where they left off.
“They’ve been in this organization for years now through the academy and now the first team, so it was just getting them back in and getting their legs a little fresh after a long plane ride and a couple days off, and they’re back into it and they’re hungry and working hard," he said.