What a fantastic first leg we all witnessed from Monterrey, Mexico. There was so much drama on the field you couldn’t believe what was going on with the physical play, the goals and the yellow cards, but at the same time you were scratching your head at some of the moves the coach from Monterrey was making. But at the end of the first ninety minutes it was a result that was satisfying on the northern end of the southern border as Real Salt Lake pulled off the impossible.
It started in the eighteenth minute when RSL couldn’t keep possession and allowed Monterrey to make a run. The original shot was saved by Nick Rimando but he was well off his line and allowed Aldo De Nigris to convert after a rebound scramble. But the interesting moments after the goal were very strange. De Nigris goal celebration saw him lift his shirt, but not all the way over his head. He earned a booking which was his second yellow of the tournament and will miss the second leg.
But the strangest of them all was the double substitution by Victor Vucetich as he took out Luis Perez for Jesus Zavala and his goal scorer De Nigris for Osvaldo Martinez. It’s understandable if both men picked up a hamstring injury of some sort, but they were taken out for tactical reasons. Of what no one knows, but it was a very strange thing to see. Afterwards Real Salt Lake finally struck that big away goal in the thirty-fifth minute.
RSL was awarded a free kick along the near side of the field and Will Johnson was ready to work some magic again. His long free kick to the middle of the area found two teammates and it was Nat Borchards who scored on the header to tie the aggregate at one. More importantly it was a big away goal that was in favor of Jason Kreis side.
It looked good going to the locker room for RSL at the end of the first half, but when the second started it looked like the team in gold started sluggish. You hoped there wasn’t going to be a letdown, yet there was a problem when Jamison Olave tried to clear a pop up in the sixty-second, only he missed it with his left leg and the ball touched his outstretched right arm in the area for a penalty. Humberto Suazo would convert it in the next minute.
The final prayer was answered within regulation as Javier Morales had the ball near the area of Monterrey; he danced around the defender and smashed it past Jonathan Orozco for the second equalizer of the match and the second away goal for the club. The final score was 2-2 and the away goals advantage right now is in favor of Real Salt Lake.
Just as Monterrey will be without De Nigris for the second leg, Kyle Beckerman will be missing for Real Salt Lake. He too earned his second yellow of the knockout stage as he collided with a Monterrey attacker and was shown the card. Of course the big mele at the Monterrey net in the seventieth minute was not a pretty thing to see. Alvaro Saborio, frustrated, did try to score but he accidentally got Orozco which caused Jesus Zavala to put his hand on Saborio’s throat. Both received yellows, but honestly Zavala should’ve been sent off. If you thought the first leg was exciting, get your seatbelts fastened. Next week should be a blast.