SANDY — Last weekend after Real Salt Lake played to a 1-1 draw against Minnesota United FC, head coach Mike Petke insisted his team was going to put its best foot forward on Wednesday night in its first-ever Leagues Cup match at Rio Tinto Stadium against familiar foe Tigres UANL.
Petke surely felt the need to say it, of course, because teams often do not do so in non-Major League Soccer action, instead putting a lineup of more seldom-used players on the field in an attempt to give them some experience in games that don’t count in the MLS standings.
The coach did indeed trot out a solid lineup, but Tigres dominated possession and although RSL had some chances to score, it didn’t make any of the chances it got count in a 1-0 loss.
A 57th-minute long-distance goal from Eduardo Vargas that deflected off RSL defender Justen Glad wound up being the difference-maker as Tigres move will move on to the semifinals of the tournament that began with four clubs from MLS and four from Liga MX.
RSL is now 1-2-1 all-time against Tigres.
“We had some quality opportunities to score tonight,” said Petke, who was shown a red card after the game for reasons that left him confused in his media session. “They’re a better possession team...they’re a quality team. We were chasing shadows at times, but we created some pretty good opportunities and just weren’t precise enough.”
The two sides played to a 0-0 scoreline in the first half, and then 10 minutes into the second, RSL had an excellent chance to go ahead when Joao Plata had a great look, but it went off the post.
Two minutes later, Vargas fired off a shot from about 30 yards away that went off Glad, and RSL goalkeeper Nick Rimando couldn’t quite react to it quickly enough.
RSL had a few chances at an equalizer over the final third of the contest, but nothing found the back of the net.
“I think it’s clear they’re a very talented team, but I think we created a lot of good chances,” said forward Corey Baird. “They had the ball for a lot of the game, but I think we kept a good shape.”
RSL will have a quick turnaround, as it will return to MLS action on Saturday evening in a road game against FC Dallas, a squad that is just one point ahead of RSL in the league table.
Tigres will play fellow Liga MX team Club America in the Leagues Cup semifinal on Aug. 20. Just one MLS team advanced to the semifinals, as the LA Galaxy will face Cruz Azul in the semifinals.