So first let's get the basics out of the way:
The match is tonight at 8pm MT and here are your options for catching the action:
- TV: FOX Soccer (English) and TeleFutura (Spanish)
- Radio: ESPN 700 (English)(pre-game coverage begins at7:00 p.m.MT), ESPN Deportes1600-AM & Juan 106.1-FM(Spanish)
- Online:Live streaming video on CONCACAF.com (free registration required), live updates viaOfficial RSL Twitter Feed (@RealSaltLake) ,and live chat on RealSaltLake.com
I can't do a match preview, I simply don't know enough about Monterrey to do so, but I will offer up some thoughts about the match from a RSL perspective. The team has gotten unprecedented levels of support from Major League Soccer and players and coaches from teams around the league, the national soccer media and even national sports media has taken notice. In Salt Lake City, I have people who I don't even know asking me for tickets, the local sports shows that normally give RSL the cold shoulder are all jumping on the bandwagon. Heck all of a sudden RSL is the hottest ticket in town and has people all over talking about them, that is all good but it does bring about some additional pressure to the team.
I always laughed when Jason would say "keep doubting us" proclaiming that it made his job easier, well now with so many supporting the team you have to wonder if that makes his job a bit tougher? I wouldn't want anyone else in charge to help keep the team grounded, they know they are in the finals because they worked hard and that nobody is going to just give them the trophy. I love how so many people who are with the team in Mexico have all mentioned how level headed the RSL players and staff are about the match.
after the jump, who I think will be in the starting XI and how I think the match will go.
So there is a lot of pressure on RSL to become the first team in US history to secure a win in Mexico, the MLS has a 0-21-3 record in matches played in Mexico and the USMNT has a 0-23-1 record. So clearly the task of getting a win or even a draw is a steep hill to climb. It might be easy to dismiss RSL's chances but only need to look back to last fall when the team should have walked out of Estadio Azul with a win, but instead they had to battle monsoon conditions that left the pitch in awful conditions and several calls that both took away a RSL goal and gave Cruz Azul a goal they shouldn't have gotten. In the end the team left with a 5-4 loss but they learned that they can play with the best teams in CONCACAF no matter where the match takes place.
Monterrey has a perfect record at home in CCL play (5-0-0) with 9 goals for and just 3 goals allowed, and they like RSL are looking to become Champions League champions for the first time. RSL should take some comfort in knowing that Seattle was able last fall to score 2 goals at Monterrey and while they lost 3-2 it took a 78th minute PK to beat them. That match however showed how good Monterrey can be as they scored 3 goals in just over 4 minutes to take command of the match, it has to be said that Seattle didn't play their best team in the match and neither did Monterey. Yet it gives hope that MLS teams can play well at Monterrey, who haven't gotten a win in their last 3 league matches (two 1-1 draws at home and a 3-0 loss at Cruz Azul). With Humberto Suazo battling a shoulder injury there may be hope for RSL.
It is interesting that while many people talk about the offensive power that Monterrey has, in their 10 Champions league matches they have scored just 16 goals, while allowing 6. Real Salt Lake have scored 24, while allowing 14, the RSL offense has been good in both halves with 12 goals in the first half and 12 in the second half. However, Alvaro Saborio has scored 6 of his 8 goals in CCL play in the first half of matches
Well I should know better than to try to guess what lineup Jason will use tonight, I feel that it will look something like this: Nick Rimando, Robbie Russell, Jamison Olave, Nat Borchers, Chris Wingert, Andy Williams, Kyle Beckerman (C), Javier Morales, Will Johnson, Fabian Espindola, and Alvaro Saborio. I expect that the bench will likely be: Kyle Reynish, Tony Beltran,Chris Schuler, Jean Alexandre, Collen Warner, Ned Grabavoy, and Arturo Alvarez
Paulo Jr. will not be available to start of come off the bench tonight but he is expected to be able to play for the 2nd leg next week. After a rough match last week against Colorado my reports from Mexico say that Saborio has been very sharp in practices and seems in better spirits off the pitch as well. I expect that he will be working hard to get the golden boot of the tournament, he will need 4 goals to claim it outright.
So how will the match go? I think RSL will come out with a energy level that will surprise Monterrey and it is likely that RSL will find a way to get an early goal, within the first 20-25 minutes. This will force Monterrey to adjust their tactics a bit and I can see them getting an equalizer either late in the first half or early in the second half. I think no matter how fit RSL is the last 1/3 of the match will be a real test of their fitness and the match could hinge on what subs are made. I think this is the type of match where Arturo Alvarez could come in and really create problems for the Monterrey defense, either with some quality delivery or even in drawing some vital free kicks or dare I say a PK? I think this one is going to be a very interesting match to watch, and I believe that RSL has what it takes to get a late goal (something they are very good at) to pull off an amazing 2-1 win on the road.
OFF MY SOAPBOX