C.D. Saprissa Vs. Real Salt Lake: CONCACAF Champions League Semifinal, Leg Two Preview

Posted In Match Previews and Reviews - By Kevin McCauley On Tuesday, April 5th, 2011 With 1 Comment

A one goal loss. That will do it. That’s all that Real Salt Lake needs to advance to the final of CONCACAF Champions League. After their 2-0 win in the first leg in the Rio Tinto Stadium, RSL are favorites going into the second leg at the Saprissa Stadium, notoriously one of the toughest places in the entire world to play a game. I don’t think that’s hyperbole at all. Obviously, calling Saprissa one of the toughest teams in the world is a serious stretch, but very few players will ever deal with a tougher environment that RSL will deal with tonight. The stadium has been sold out, and they will have rocks thrown at their bus. Players will probably have beer thrown on them during corner kicks. It’s one of those kinds of environments.

Thankfully, the entire game isn’t played near the sidelines, and none of the game is played on the bus or in the infamous tiny, cramped away locker room. There is still a football pitch to play on and a football to play with, and in that respect, it’s no different from any other game. It seems likely that Jason Kreis will have his team mentally prepared and able to deal with what they’re going to see, environment-wise. If they aren’t intimidated, they’re probably a better football team than Saprissa.

That’s not arrogance coming from an MLS blogger or disrespect for Saprissa. If it were any other MLS team save for New York, I’d probably say Saprissa were the better side. Right now, since we haven’t seen a healthy Red Bulls first XI put together a full match together, we have to call RSL a class above the competition. Right now, they’re probably the only MLS team who can hang with literally any team on the continent over two legs, home and away. And yes, that includes their prospective opponents in the final, Monterrey and Cruz Azul.

When it comes to actual football and not all of this emotional and/or hypothetical stuff, the biggest question revolved around Kreis and what he is and is not willing to do tactically. How will he start the game? With no special instructions? With a push for an away goal? With a conservative mindset? I think the last possibility is the most interesting, as much as most people hate negative football. It would make a lot of sense for RSL to try to bunker in and play for a 0-0 in this game, knowing that if they actually lose 1-0, they still go through. When your roster features their back line, plus guys like Kyle Beckerman and Will Johnson, I wouldn’t exactly call this playing with fire. There’s no reason why the players that they have shouldn’t be able to accomplish something like that. So, is this in Kreis’s bag of tricks, and if it is, what would make him willing to bust it out?

Personally, I like Kreis to go with a balanced approach and notch a 1-1 draw, which would be more than good enough to send RSL into the final. We’ll see tonight. You can catch that game on Fox Soccer Channel at 10 pm ET.

About Kevin McCauley - Kevin McCauley is the Editor in Chief of The Allocation Order. He is also the managing editor at World Soccer Reader and a contributor on multiple levels to SBNation

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  1. hoopsfan says:

    It’s a shame this isn’t broadcast to a wider US audience.

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