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.