Real Salt Lake Makes History As First MLS Side To Play In Champions League Final

This was going to be the toughest road match for Real Salt Lake in their first International club competition. It’s always comfortable to be at home. Yet when you have to go down to Costa Rica and play in one of the worst road venues in the entire confederation of CONCACAF, to pull out a positive result in any shape possible, then you’ve done a fantastic job.

Up two goals on the aggregate, RSL had to face not just a tough opponent but one of the worst plastic fields. Plus the crowd being on you for ninety minutes straight. But what they did was hold off the purple dragon and did so very well. Once the match got underway Saprissa dictated it from the opening whistle. They had many chances that kept the RSL defenders on their toes and peppered keeper Nick Rimando. After a tough and scoreless first half, you thought RSL was going to play their game in the second.

That was not so as Deportivo Saprissa made their first substitution of the match before the start of the second half. In the first minute of the second half Luis Diego Cordero ripped a fantastic ball that found the upper ninety of the near post that gave the early lead for Saprissa and cut the deficit on the aggregate for RSL. It was poor marking by Jamison Olave who didn’t step up and help Will Johnson who was trying to pressure Cordero from behind. But as the match went on, Real Salt Lake started to calm down and finally earned that away goal they were looking for.

In the 61st minute RSL earned a corner on the far side and when Javier Morales struck the ball into the area, it pinballed off a couple of players, but it was Olave who sized up the shot and a side footer found the back of the net. The match was level at one all, but RSL got their two goal aggregate lead back and that precious away goal. That Olave goal quieted the home crowd; silence became golden again for RSL as they were now positioned to win the match.

You thought to yourself there was no way that Saprissa was going to get three goals to make a major comeback and surprise Real Salt Lake, but while they threatened there was nothing Saprissa could do. Yes they earned a penalty and converted it in the 87th minute by Alonso Solis but with three minutes of stoppage time added on, it wasn’t enough as referee Marco Rodriguez blew the final whistle for full time.

This club from the state of Utah has carried the flags of their state, Major League Soccer and US Soccer. This is a moment that all of us who support the game in this country can be proud of. A game plan that was drawn up by Jason Kreis was never diverted once that blast from Cordero was marked on the score sheet. Sure they were on their heels for a time, but once they calmed themselves and pulled in that away goal, everything was fine again.

Now all RSL has to do is sit back and wait for their Mexican opponent in either Cruz Azul or Monterrey of the Primera Division for the goal aggregate final and once again it will be Mexico versus USA all over again.

22 thoughts on “Real Salt Lake Makes History As First MLS Side To Play In Champions League Final”

  1. So glad Salt Lake City made it out alive and got the result they deserve. Congrats to Salt Lake City!

    MLS FO needs to take this competition seriously. No more scheduling matches the day of or the day before CCL Matches [see: 2010 All-Star Game, Opening Kick 2011]. MLS needs to show some respect for what these teams are doing.

  2. Yes the final is two-legged like the semi-finals. Monterrey and Cruz Azul play tonight. The winner will host RSL in the first leg on April 20th, with a return trip to Rio Tinto on April 27th. Long live RSL!

    1. Not really considering no US team has ever won in Mexico. Salt Lake City would of had a huge advantage to have first leg at home and pile on goals like they did to Saprissa and hope for a draw or away goal in Mexico. Lets hope SLC doesn’t park the bus in mexico and go for the away goal.

    2. Having watched them already play Cruz Azul in a classic game, they can win down there. I think it will be Monterrey however.

      Tough first game, especially in Mexico, but winable. Sounders lost 3-2 in Monterrey.

      But from the perspective of Monterrey ( or CA ) very tough game if you don’t do much in the first game. Salt Lake is near unbeatable in Utah.
      That goes for Mexican teams too….CA lost 3-1 there already.

  3. Kudos to RSL for a hard fought a well deserved win + trip to the CCL finals! Nice to see a domestic team making some noise internationally. How cool would it be to see them in the Club World Cup?

    I wish that more people, and the media, would make a bigger deal out of the Club WC. It’s for the legitimate Championship of the world! And no one seems to care outside of the teams participating and the host location.

    Watching RSL play last night kinda made me sad though that our division 2 teams will not have the chance, albeit a slim one, to make it into the CCL through the Open Cup this year.

    Oh well, hopefully the NASL satisfies the Federation and in 2012 they get back in.

    1. What a screw job. You have a soccer league in the US, but we are going to hold you down.
      All the MLS haters out to be focused on this, rather than how guys who are sponsoring a major league with their $40 million spend their own money.

      Agree on the Club World Cup too. Salt Lake, MLS, and Fox Soccer ought to be talking about Salt Lake is 5 or so victories away from winning a WORLD CHAMPIONSHIP.
      Figure out how many teams in the world COULD have won it.

      Not hard to promote something that big…….

      10,000 teams, Salt Lake is in the Final 12, Fox Soccer a week from Tuesday.

    2. i hope the USOC never ever give up the CCL slot to the winner of USOC, its nice to see amature clubs compete with MLS and USL and NASL (hopefully in the future) sides and to make it legit have the prize money and the CCL slot. if not unfourtnatley it will just be another meaningless cup (although the history behind it will never ever make it meaningless) that takes up valuable time for MLS clubs.

      ill def. be paying attention to the USOC this year. SUPPORT THE USOC!

  4. The CCL needs to be reworked in branding and marketing. It looks like a piss poor third world country tournament. Doesn’t have nearly as much glitz and glamor as it should for being the premier tournament for all of Concacaf!

    1. MLS treats this tournament like crap as well. Remember when Galaxy got beat by Puerto Rico and the next day Donovan had to go play in a meaningless All-Star game in KC? Or how how about scheduling MLS first kick on the same day as RSL’s 1st leg semi final?

      So far I haven’t watched an entire MLS match but have been glued to the CCL. The format makes sense and SLC is taking this tourny very seriously. Let’s hope Rapids and Galaxy don’t crash and burn next year because we already know Sounders are going to crap the bed again.

      1. I don’t think so regarding the Sounders. Some tough breaks, some tough calls ( red card ) and some bad single plays (Keller dropping an easy ball ) and you are in trouble in a tourney like this.

        I thought they looked like a better team than all but Monterrey.
        Better teams will win out eventually. Plus the Three Peat is on the way for USOC even if they do flame out like last fall.

        I didn’t like the First Kick the same day as the CCL playoffs, but MLS is in a bit of a bind trying to fit into a very tough sports schedule. This isn’t England….we were all ticked last year when they put the First Kick the same days as the opening games of the NCAA tourney two days later.

        1. Weaksauce marketing from the league aside, I think RSL has done a commendable job of promoting this tourney online and around town.

          What’s really impressed me is what Jason Kreis said in one the of the CCL 360 videos (which I love, btw). Rather than just give a boiler plate “the CCL is a very important tournament for us”, he flat out said that these matches [the CCL] are the highest priority on their calendar.

          Comments like that are what pull in 15k fans on a snowy Tuesday. Can’t wait for the final!

          1. CMonkey,

            I guess you’re right . SLC is doing an excellent job in marketing and putting people in the seats as well as the coaching staff taking this tourny very seriously.

  5. Kudos to RSL, i thought the game was going to be played at 10pm tonite. idk where i got that info but still its great to see a MLS side finally, FINALLY break the mold. though i dare say Cruz Azul or Monterey will give RSL a huge run for their money, but still im rooting for RSL and i hope they get the ticket to go to the club world cup! how exciting! and ill be sure to pay attention to USOC this year it looks to be a exciting tourney this year. though the club WC they denfiatley will lose to a AFC club im sorry.

    i hope however this doesnt give garber a cushion seat for parity in MLS which is why i was sorta hoping RSL would lose to show garber. Most mls clubs still struggle against international clubs because of the parity handicap imposed on mls club for domestic play will affect them in CCL. but maybe this is a sign that MLS clubs can compete with international clubs with the parity cap in place. if next year a MLS club can get passed quarter finals we’ll have our answer

    1. You hope they lose? I really don’t understand rooting against MLS teams to show Garber. The players have worked hard to get to where they are. Even with parity, sides like RSL are showing that the top clubs in the league have improved in quality. We should be celebrating their success, not downing it.

      1. a 1-0 kansas city win over Man U is nothing, and have you seen any mls club come close to where RSL is at now? no so no club with parity has shown any top club that quality has improved.

        1. First of all, if you have a team that can buy up all the talent they want, then they will beat most other teams consistently. How many teams in the world can say that they regularly beat Man U? Not many. That is not a sign that those teams suck, nor is it a sign that their leagues suck.

          Second of all, the improvement is in progress. This means that things are better now than they weren’t before. If improvement has not taken place, then other teams would have been doing what RSL is doing right now. Hence, quality improvement. Just watch. More clubs will follow.

        2. EpicB,

          Umm, you do realize that LA won the Supporters Shield, Colorado won the MLS Cup and Seattle won the USOC.
          Salt Lake ? Well they didn’t qualify for next years CCL.

          Now what were you saying about noone being close to Salt Lake again ? MLS is parity league.

          Salt Lake is the best team, IMHO, but they have a LOT of teams right on their heels, inspite of what the MLS hater would have you believe now that they are succeeding.

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