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Real Salt Lake vs. Tauro FC - CONCACAF Champions League Match Preview

RSL vs Tauro FC
RSL vs Tauro FC

So Real Salt Lake will play host to Tauro FC of Panama on Tuesday in a Champions League group 2 match and while I can't claim to be an expert on Tauro FC and like RSL head coach Jason Kreis I have seen no video of the team, other than some highlights on youtube. I do know that their season in Panama has just gotten under way and Tauro have played 6 matches and are 4-1-1 with 9 goals scored and 3 allowed in those matches. They are lead in scoring by Edwin Aguilar who has 5 goals, Aguilar has bounced around Central and South American teams over the past 7 years including two stints with Tauro, he was the leading scorer in Panama in 2009 with 18 goals with Tauro. He is a 27 year old 6' 1" striker who has 8 caps with Panamas National Team. Tauro FC like RSL had a league match on Saturday so they too will be playing on short rest.

Everyone I have talked to about Tauro FC says they are a very athletic team with good speed and as you can see by their numbers they have both a good offense and solid defense. They did play in the Champions League last year but finished at the bottom of their group which included Pumas, Toronto FC, and FC Dallas. Tauro got one win, two draws and lost 3 matches. Their one win came at home over FC Dallas in a match that saw Tauro get a 5-3 win and had 3 red cards and a stretch of 10 minutes that had 4 goals scored. They only scored 2 other goals in their 5 other group stage matches.

The officiating crew will be from Guatemala on Tuesday and one has to expect that the match will probably be called a lot tighter than Saturday's match. We also know that the team from Panama isn't used to playing in front of a crowd that will likely be close to 20K, or at the elevation of Rio Tinto Stadium.

after the jump what RSL will need to do in order to get the result in this "Must Win" match:

So RSL head coach said that if his team played like they did on Saturday night that he believes they would get the win on Tuesday, but the reality is that we have to finish and while getting the win in the most important thing, we have to remember that every goal will count toward rankings for the knockout rounds if you can make it out of the group stage.

We know that RSL is a team that can pass the ball very well, often completing 80% or more of their passes, they pass a lot each match with the average being between 450-550 passes per match and that often leads to having more possession than their opponents. All those things are good but we have to finish our chances, on Saturday we took 15 shots, had 5 on goal and a couple that were close but only one went up on the scoreboard and I think we may need more than 1 to get the win on Tuesday.

A key will be what group of guys we can play on our backline, with Nat Borchers suspended and Jamison Olave and Chris Schuler both recovering from injuries (both were taking a late fitness test after practice on Monday). I have to suspect that we will see Tony Beltran, Kwame Watson-Siriboe, Chris Wingert, and Kenny Mansally on the backline, and Nick Rimando in goal, with Ned Grabavoy, Kyle Beckerman, Javier Morales, and Will Johnson in the midfield. Up top will likely be Fabian Espindola and Alvaro Saborio.

The last time RSL was in the Champions League they hosted a total of 6 matches at Rio Tinto Stadium from the group stages to the CCL final against Monterrey, only once did the team fail to score a goal, that was in the home leg of the finals. RSL was actually able to score 15 goals in those 6 CCL home matches, while they gave up just 5 goals across the 6 matches. This could be a very good thing as not only will wins at home be important but as pointed out in my CCL 101 blog post goal differential and goals scored are very important factors in tiebreakers as well as the seeding of the knockout rounds.

With a premium on road goals it is hard to tell what style of play Tauro FC might go with, but clearly they have a team with a good offense as they have demonstrated in their league play. Still you have to believe that on short rest and at elevation they might be more likely to play a bunker and counter style, something that has caused RSL some issues this year, ok fine, this week. Still I have to believe with our forwards that we should be able to break their defense down, you can look at the domination of FC Dallas on Saturday and know that the two things we need to change are finishing our chances and eliminating mistakes when the opponents counter.

I look for a solid RSL outing and will pick this one to end 3-1 as I think Fabian Espindola will break his scoring drought on a night where we might see some rain.

What are your thoughts?