CONCACAF Champions League: Real Salt Lake Vs. Saprissa, Leg 1 Preview

Posted In Match Previews and Reviews - By Kevin McCauley On Tuesday, March 15th, 2011 With 0 Comments

Real Salt Lake play a pretty big game on Saturday, just like every other team in Major League Soccer, but Tuesday night’s CONCACAF Champions League clash is arguably the biggest in club history, depending on who you ask. The MLS Cup final was a great occasion for the team, but there are those who believe that international club competition is the true measure of a team’s success. Real Salt Lake’s quarterfinal win over Columbus Crew was equally important and impressive, but the real test comes over the next two legs against Saprissa.

Of course, if they win, they probably face an even bigger test in either Monterrey or Cruz Azul, but they can hardly afford to get caught looking ahead. Especially since former LA Galaxy and US National Team player Kyle Martino said it’s the toughest place he’s ever played. Lucky for Salt Lake, they have a chance to build a lead before even stepping foot in Costa Rica. Not only can RSL not afford to give up an away goal, they can’t afford to not win. Anything but a shutout victory at Rio Tinto Stadium tonight could potentially spell disaster.

Saprissa are not a team loaded with stars, but they are very experienced and very cohesive. Unfortunately for them, they are starting to make the transition from “experienced” to “old,” but they appear to at least have a little bit of gas left in the tank. If you’re looking for some really hard hitting tactical analysis or deep profiles of players…I apologize. I’m up on the basics for Saprissa, but they’re not terribly accessible when it comes to the in depth stuff. However, here’s what we do know.

Saprissa are on a tear right now. They’re in sick goal-scoring form domestically and in CONCACAF Champions League. They’ll probably play a variation on 4-4-2 with a true holding midfielder and a playmaker. Despite being very old, Walter Centeno is still an incredibly skilled player. They have a few skilled forwards who can score goals. They’re not as deep as RSL, nor do they have the same raw talent, but they are a very good team and they are not to be taken lightly.

For Real Salt Lake, it’s business as usual. There’s only one selection in any kind of serious doubt, the right midfield spot. That could be occupied by Andy Williams or Ned Grabavoy. Otherwise, it’s the usual suspects all the way around, with the central players, Kyle Beckerman and Javier Morales, being key. If they play well, Real Salt Lake plays well, even if Fabian Espindola manages to miss a sitter or two. We know their defense will be rock solid, and it would be shocking to see them make any kind of awful error at home.

The home side should win tonight, and they should come in with the attitude that they have to. With a trip to Saprissa looming, a draw is a potential disaster for RSL. That shouldn’t happen, though, and I like Alvaro Saborio to put in a big performance, creating some early buzz for a possible Golden Boot and MVP win.

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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