Champions League Final (1st leg) - Real Salt Lake 2 - 2 Monterrey - quick thoughts

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Wow, that wasn't the most pleasant match to watch, but it was entertaining for sure.  An intense 2-2 draw that saw RSL come from behind twice.  I was a bit disappointed with the RSL style of play in the second half but I think that despite some questionable calls that went both ways (missed Johnson handball, no red for choking Sabo, a phantom yellow on Beckerman) it was good to see RSL bounce back each time they were down a goal.

The first goal was simply an unlucky bounce of the ball that is usually cleaned up by Nick Rimando, then it was followed by a classic header by Nat Borchers (who this time got to keep the goal) on a incredible ball played in by Will Johnson and the first half ended 1-1 in what I consider a fairly evenly played half.  The two early subs by Monterrey were really question marks in my mind, not sure about the extent of injuries or if it was simply trying to rest a couple players during a busy stretch of matches.

The second half stated out much like the first with both teams playing a fairly frantic pace, but within 10 minutes Monterrey had taken on the role of the aggressor but RSL was able to keep them at bay for extended stretches of play. Then came the call for a handball on Jamison Olave, I don't know about that one as the replay I have watched several times isn't clear if it bounced off his thigh or his arm.  The end result was a PK that Suazo was he was able to convert and give his team the 2-1 lead.  Monterrey kept up the intense pressure for a long time but eventually RSL were able to start getting some possession and eventually it was second half sub Arturo Alvarez who feed a great ball to Javier Morales who put it in the back of the net for the 2-2 draw.

after the jump the official match recap and post match quotes:

OK here is the official stuff from the great team at RSL Communications:

CRUCIAL LATE GOAL EARNS REAL SALT LAKE 2-2 DRAW AT MONTERREY

MF Javier Morales' Tally in 89th Minute of CONCACAF Champions League Final's Opening Leg Sends Series Back to Utah all Square for Next Wednesday's Decisive Contest 

MONTERREY, Mexico (Wednesday, April 20, 2011) A goal from MF Javier Morales with just minutes remaining helped Real Salt Lake even its CONCACAF Champions League Final opening leg against Monterrey at 2-2, helping to send the aggregate goals series to Sandy all knotted up.

The 2010/11 regional club championship could very well come down to the pair of away goals the Utah side was able to tally on the evening, each of which erased a one-goal deficit. Thanks to the two road goals, Real Salt Lake will lift its first piece of international hardware with a win, a scoreless draw, or a 1-1 draw next Wednesday at Rio Tinto Stadium, as the first tiebreaker comes down to goals scored away from home in the series.

Real Salt Lake showed its veteran mettle in front of a boisterous crowd of 31,000 at Estadio Tecnológico, first leveling the match in the 35th minute via a crisp header by DF Nat Borchers, which cancelled out Monterrey FW Aldo De Nigris' opening salvo in the 17th minute. After Rayados FW Humberto Suazo converted from the penalty spot in the 63rd minute, RSL would grind through many a nervous moment before Morales side-stepped a defender and sent a right-footed shot just inside the far left post to even up the proceedings, sending the series into its weeklong "halftime" at 2-2.

Real Salt Lake Match Notes

  • After weathering a tough storm down at Estadio Tecnológico, Real Salt Lake will get to enjoy the home cooking that its Rio Tinto Stadium "fortress" has provided to the tune of a current 34-match undefeated streak across all competitions (run stretches to 37 games when including international friendlies). RSL's 25-0-9 record in Sandy since May 2009 has included a spotless 5-0-0 mark in CCL play during the team's maiden voyage through the regional competition, including a 2-0 victory over Costa Rican powerhouse Deportivo Saprissa in the last CCL hime fixture back on March 15.
  • Thanks to cooperation from Major League Soccer and the Philadelphia Union, the MLS regular season contest between Real Salt Lake and Philly that was slated for this Saturday in Sandy has been moved back to Saturday, Sept. 3. This will allow RSL a full week to prepare for the second and decisive CCL Final leg next Wednesday.
  • One player that won't see the field In next week's ultimate contest is captain Kyle Beckerman, who was shown his second caution of the Championship Stage during tonight's second half, which comes with an automatic one-game suspension. A pair of Monterrey players will also miss out after seeing their second yellows of the knockout phase - Aldo De Nigris and Jesus Zavala.
  • The goal for Nat Borchers was long overdue, as the RSL center back had had seemingly valid goals called back twice already in 2011. Borchers ended a lengthy scoring drought with goals in back-to-back MLS matches last Sept. 25 (v. COL) and Oct. 2 (@ NE). The goal was RSL's second straight in the competition tallied by a center back, following on the heels ofJamison Olave's half-volley effort in a 1-2 Semifinal series-clinching defeat at Deportivo Saprissa on April 5.
  • The clutch finish by Morales was the Argentine playmaker's fourth in 2010/11 CCL play, which places him tied for ninth on the competition's scoring chart. Teammate FW Álvaro Saborío remains tied for second on the CCL scoring list with eight tallies (even with Cruz Azul's Emanuel Villa). 

MONTERREY  2  :  2  REAL SALT LAKE

CONCACAF CHAMPIONS LEAGUE FINAL - LEG ONE

WEDNESDAY, APRIL 20, 2011

ESTADIO TECNOLÓGICO - MONTERREY, NUEVO LEÓN, MÉXICO

Goals by Period                    1          2          F

Monterrey                               1          1          2

Real Salt Lake                        1          1          2

Scoring Summary:

MTY - Aldo De Nigris (unassisted) 17

RSL - Nat Borchers (Will Johnson) 35

MTY - Humberto Suazo (penalty kick) 63

RSL - Javier Morales (Arturo Alvarez) 89

Misconduct Summary:

MTY - Aldo De Nigris (caution) 17

RSL - Kyle Beckerman (caution) 64

MTY - Jesus Eduardo Zavala (caution) 72

RSL - Alvaro Saborio (caution) 72

RSL - Andy Williams (caution) 74

Monterrey (4-4-2): Jonathan Orozco; Sergio Perez, Hiram Ricardo Mier, José María Basanta, Ricardo Osorio; Sergio Santana (Jesús Arellano 69), Walter Ayovi, Luis Ernesto Perez (captain) (Jesús Eduardo Zavala 20), Neri Cardozo; Aldo De Nigris (Osvaldo Martinez 21), Humberto Suazo

Head Coach: Victor Manuel Vucetich (MEX)

Real Salt Lake (4-4-2): Nick Rimando; Robbie Russell (Tony Beltran 82), Jamison Olave, Nat Borchers, Chris Wingert; Ned Grabavoy (Andy Williams 60), Kyle Beckerman (captain), Javier Morales, Will Johnson; Álvaro Saborio (Arturo Alvarez 82), Fabian Espíndola

Head Coach: Jason Kreis (USA)

Statistics/Estadísticas                         Monterrey         Real Salt Lake

Goal Attempts/Tiros Totales                         20                          13

Shots on Target/Tiros al Arco                        8                            6

Saves/Atajadas                                              3                            4

Fouls/Faltas                                                   12                          16

Corner Kicks/Tiros de Esquina                      8                            7

Offsides/Fuera de Lugar                                4                            0

Throw in / Saques de banda                         23                          25

Referee: Joel Aguilar (SLV)

Referee's Assistants: William Torres (SLV), Juan Francisco Zumba (SLV)

4th Official: Elmer Bonilla (SLV)

Attendance: 31,000

RSL POST-GAME QUOTE SHEET

MONTERREY  2  :  2  REAL SALT LAKE

REAL SALT LAKE HEAD COACH JASON KREIS

On Javier Morales' late-match equalizer:

"When the ball gets on Javier's foot I think we all take a collective breath and hold it for a moment because we know that he's capable of special plays. Big players make big plays in the biggest games."

On snatching the second goal against the run of play:

"I tried to remind the guys that, no matter the scoreline, [Monterrey] was going to continue to try and score because that's the nature of the beast - this is only the first game. I thought we might be able to get something against the run of play, and that's where it came from. I'm pleased the guys continued to believe, but, to be completely honest, I was alright with walking out of here 2-1 down."

On the caution issued to captain Kyle Beckerman:

"95% of me is all smiles. 5% of me is very aggravated about the yellow card decision on Kyle Beckerman. I just think it was a completely unjust decision that not only affected tonight's match, but the next one as well."

On the chance to win the competition at Rio Tinto Stadium in front of a sellout crowd next Wednesday:

"This is the stuff that dreams are made of, the opportunity to raise this kind of trophy and be the best team in the region. It's been a fair tournament, and if we can win or get a 0-0 or 1-1 draw next week we can count ourselves as the best team in this region. It would be simply fantastic and amazing to raise the trophy in front of our home crowd."

REAL SALT LAKE MIDFIELDER JAVIER MORALES

On his 89th minute tally:

"Arturo [Alvarez] made a good play on the outside to give me the ball. I touched it and that's when the defender came to me. I tried to cut and cross the ball and was happy because it ended up as a goal."

On gaining the draw in tough conditions on the road:

"It's very good, but it means nothing because we have to go home and try to win [the second leg]. In the first half I think we made a great showing, and both teams had their chances. In the second half I think we lost the battle, but that's normal - it's their home. We'll see now what happens back in Salt Lake. I think it's going to be a different game."

On whether that was the biggest goal of his career:

"I hope not ... but until now it has been."

There you have all the info and then some.  I would love to give RSL's owners Dave Checketts and Dell Loy Hansen a huge shout out.  They took all the players on the RSL roster down with them for the historic match at Monterrey, not a move all owners would make but you have to believe that it makes the "team is the star" much easier to get guys to believe in with owners who do things like this.

OFF MY SOAPBOX

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