Real Salt Lake set to open against rival Colorado in MLS is Back Tournament on July 8
RSL is set to play two late games in Orlando and one early game, which will help it avoid playing games during the hottest time of the day.
SANDY — MLS announced its full slate of games for the MLS is Back Tournament in Orlando from July 8 to Aug. 11, and the schedule makers did Real Salt Lake a big favor.
In group play of World Cup-style tournaments, advancement often comes down to success in the first game of the tournament. A win sets a team up great to secure a favorable spot heading into the knockout rounds, while a loss in the opener creates an immediate sense of urgency in the next two games.
It’s why drawing the Colorado Rapids in the opener on July 12 could be a big advantage for Real Salt Lake. It has historically dominated its Rocky Mountain Cup rivals, winning the season series 11 of the past 13 years and posting a 19-8-10 record during that stretch.
Last season it won both games against Colorado.
“Any tournament I’ve gone into a big focus was on that first game. Don’t overlook, don’t look at any other game you got in that group, make sure you put all your focus into that first game and getting everybody on the same page. Make sure they know the importance of a win in that first game,” said Kyle Beckerman last week before the schedule was announced.
RSL’s first game against Colorado is scheduled for Sunday, July 12, at 8:30 p.m. MDT. Its second group game will be against Minnesota United on July 17 at 8:30 p.m., with the final group game coming on July 22 against Sporting Kansas City with a 7 a.m. kickoff. All three games will be televised on ESPN.
“It’s always exciting when you’re playing your rivals, and we have a couple friends on Minnesota so that will be fun also. It’s the group we expected, there’s almost a rivalry in every group.” — RSL defender Aaron Herrera
The top two finishers in each of the six groups advance to the Round of 16, in addition to the four best third-place finishers.
All games will be broadcast in three time slots, 7 a.m., 6 p.m. and 8:30 p.m. (MDT), which helps teams avoid playing in the hottest time of the day in Orlando.
“It’s always exciting when you’re playing your rivals, and we have a couple friends on Minnesota so that will be fun also. It’s the group we expected, there’s almost a rivalry in every group,” said RSL defender Aaron Herrera.
Some MLS teams are reporting to Orlando as early as today to begin training, but Real Salt Lake isn’t scheduled to depart Utah until July 4. That gives it a week to acclimate to the humidity before its first match.
The Round of 16 takes place from July 25-28, with the quarterfinals on July 30 and Aug. 1. The semifinals are Aug. 5 and 6, and the final is Aug. 11. All matches will be played behind closed doors.
All three of RSL’s Group D opponents won their first two games of the regular season back in early March before the season was suspended.
RSL defender Justen Glad said the long break since his team’s home-opening 1-1 draw with the New York Red Bulls back on March 7 makes heading into the Orlando tournament feel like a whole new season.