RSL looking to continue CONCACAF Champions League trophy hunt

George Frey

Real Salt Lake is no stranger to do-or-die matches in CONCACAF Champions League, and with Tuesday fast-approaching, the club will be in desperate need of a win to continue its hunt for the prestigious trophy.

Real Salt Lake is no stranger to do-or-die matches in CONCACAF Champions League, and with Tuesday fast-approaching, the club will be in desperate need of a win to continue its hunt for the prestigious trophy.

RSL coach Jason Kreis said his team is once again looking to make history by winning the competition.

"I think for any professional player, coach or a professional person that's in a competitive environment like this, it's a chance to make history, a chance to be the first U.S. team to win this tournament," Kreis said. "We came so close last time that I think we all have that taste in our mouths of wanting to get back there."

Will Johnson, RSL midfielder, described the match as potentially one of the biggest games in the club's still-short history.

"This means everything for us," Johnson said. "One of our goals starting the year was to get out of our group in CONCACAF. That's a tournament that is great for the club, recognition-wise. You put yourselves on the map if you can consistently be one of the top teams in the league and consistently one of the top teams in the region."

RSL center back Nat Borchers said the club is hoping to capitalize on past successes.

"We always want to move forward in this competition; we've done well in it," Borchers said. "It gives us a great opportunity to represent this club in this region."

Johnson said a win would give RSL a chance to continue its trophy hunt, but that the nature of the competition could make that difficult.

"For us as players, it's an opportunity to win another game and get a step closer to a championship," Johnson said. "We're trying to win trophies around here. It's a very, very difficult thing to do to compete against the Mexican teams, the way the structures are set up, but we want that opportunity."

Part of that impetus to succeed in the tournament comes from RSL supporters, Johnson said.

"This needs to happen for our fan base," Johnson said. "They've adopted the CONCACAF Champions League like no other fan base in the league. They believe in it, they love the tournament - as we do. For us to continue on in that tournament for our fans is very important."

The impact moving on in the competition could have goes beyond on-pitch action: With salary cap concerns always looming in MLS, a loss could see the future of RSLs' core group up in the air - as allocation money, awarded (among other reasons) for moving on in CCL action, plays an important role.

Borchers said players can't worry about those concerns.

"The salary cap is - I hate to say it; it is a cliche - it is what it is," he said. "It's something that we can't worry about players. The management worries about those things. But we feel pressure every game. If you don't perform, if you don't do your job, there are going to be changes that are going to be made.

"Everybody's going to feel that kind of pressure, and we just go out there with the mindset that it's a good opportunity. We're not going to be afraid of anything."

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