Well for RSL this match is as big as it can get this year in Champions League action, after their opening loss at CS Herediano and Herediano's current 2-0 record, a loss or draw in this match would likely leave RSL unable to advance to the CCL knockout rounds this year. That combined with the fickle nature of trying to qualify for the next version of the tournament (We didn't win the US Open Cup, we won't win the Supporters' Shield, so we will need to make it to MLS Cup or have a team qualify multiple times) means that if we are going to make a run at the title with our current team it is all going to be on the line Tuesday in Panama.
Real Salt Lake heads into this match knowing that they were able to out play Tauro FC as evidenced by the 2-0 win (could have been 3 or 4-0) at Rio Tinto Stadium last month. Tauro FC is all but out of the tournament after losing their first two matches, but you can expect them to play very tough at home to salvage some pride and respect. RSL will be without captain Kyle Beckerman who picked up a red card in the last match and is suspended for this one, but RSL could see the return of Jamison Olave who has been out some time with an injury.
Real Salt Lake is no stranger to victory in Panama, in their previous CCL run they were able to pick up a 3-2 over Arabe Unido in Panama. This time however they will need to try to get the victory without surrendering any goals, as it is likely that the final outcome of this group could come down to tiebreakers and currently RSL trail CS Herediano in the tiebreakers:
- Greater number of points earned in matches between the teams concerned
- Greater goal difference in matches between the teams concerned
- Greater number of goals scored away from home in matches between the teams concerned
- Reapply first three criteria if two or more teams are still tied
- Greater goal difference in all group matches
- Greater number of goals scored in group matches
- Greater number of goals scored away in all group Matches
- Drawing of lots
After the jump, what RSL will need to do in order to win:
In the first match between these two sides, RSL dominated every aspect of the match except one and a surprising one at that. RSL took 17 shots, Tauro just 2. RSL had 9 shots on goal, Tauro just 1. RSL had 52% of the possession despite being down a man for the final 18 minutes of the match. RSL had 420 passes to Tauro's 395, and surprisingly Tauro completed 85% of their passes while RSL was at 84% accuracy on their passes. The first half of the match was all RSL as the team simply dominated and were unlucky (crossbar, great saves) to not score an early goal, in large part the domination was due to Tauro playing a fairly defensive style and by great wing play by both Tony Beltran and Kenny Mansally. I was also very impressed by the work rate of Paulo Jr. and Ned Grabavoy who both proved to be very dangerous for RSL.
It will be very interesting to see how RSL adjust their lineup with Jamison Olave not having seen any action since returning to training from his injury and with Kyle Beckerman suspended for the match. The RSL team notes who Olave starting and I think that is likely to happen but I do think the projection of Ned Grabavoy starting for Kyle Beckerman instead of the normal backup Yordany Alvarez is unlikely. Yordany has been excellent this year when stepping in for Kyle, and Ned had one of his most productive matches of the year (my opinion) when he was playing on the outside of the diamond in the first match against Tauro. It is likely that Fabian Espindola will get the start up top with Alavaro Saborio, but don't be surprised if we see Paulo Jr. come on at the half for one or the other of them, as he has had an outstanding couple of matches in recent weeks.
While we can expect a much more aggressive Tauro FC at home, RSL can't afford to try to play for a draw nor can they look for a single goal victory, this is a match were running up the score and trying to embarrass your opponent has to be the main objective. A 1-0 win or win by one goal will get us the needed 3 points but will not help us buffer our position in front of next week's match where Taruo FC will have to head to Costa Rica to take on CS Herediano at home. The more goals RSL can win by on Tuesday the fewer goals the team will likely have to make up in their final match at home against the side from Costa Rica, so a 2-0 or 3-1 win would be to our advantage moving forward.
One of the biggest concerns heading into this match has to be the officiating, in both of our first two matches we have seen players given straight red cards and currently RSL has two players (Alavaro Saborio and Kenny Mansally) on yellow card warning, meaning if they get another yellow card they would be suspended from RSL's next tournament match. The officiating crew for this match will be from Mexico and lead by Mauricio Morales, so we can expect the match to be called very tightly.
RSL is going to have to play with confidence and calm, road matches in Central America are never easy, but this is a group that has been there before and the conditions shouldn't play an impact on the team. I really think that if RSL can play a high tempo, high energy match and be very aggressive on offense that we could see a great result. Nothing would make me happier than a 3-0 win.
Stop by before and during the match to check out my live blogging of the match, remember it is a 6pm MT start and will be featured on Fox Soccer Channel.
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