Preview: Can RSL Advance to CCL Finals?
Real Salt Lake has landed in Costa Rica and are prepared for tonight’s kickoff. Tonight RSL will take on FC Saprissa on their home turf with the aggregate winner advancing to the CONCACAF Champions League Final. Kickoff is 10 PM Eastern time. RSL holds a 2-0 aggregate lead thanks to their victory over El Monstruo Morado two weeks ago, and with the away goal tie breaker in place, may simply have to steal a goal to advance.
While RSL may have the lead, their test tonight is not an easy one. Saprissa was named the most successful club of the 20th century in the CONCACAF region by IFFHS. They are the only CONCACAF club outside of Mexico to play in the 2005 FIFA Club World Cup and finished third. One of the players for that Saprissa club was Alvaro Saborio, now facing his long-time teammates on his old home field. Saborio played for Saprissa from 2001-2006 so he knows what the atmosphere will be like.
Because of the away goal rule and their lead, Real may be able to grab an early goal and sit on the lead, forcing Saprissa to score four times to win. However, an overly cautious approach may be detrimental to the visitors. I think Jason Kreis’ team should be cautious but aggressive early – sit back a bit but be aggressive on the counter. Scoring first would be a huge momentum shift, so while it may not be required it may be critical to quiet a hostile crowd.
What’s at stake? The first trip to a CONCACAF club championship since the LA Galaxy in 2000 and some would say a chance to legitimize MLS in the eyes of the soccer world. I’d argue that Real Salt Lake shouldn’t care about that at all and focus on one thing – themselves. This team could win a Double or Treble, they have that much talent and depth. This team can get a win this round and give the franchise a historic win, and that’s what they should worry about.