Real Salt Lake comes home for the second leg of the CONCACAF Champions League quarterfinals down two goals against the Liga MX powerhouse Tigres UANL. Unlike the other MLS teams, RSL has the home field advantage for their final stand. Making the Claret-and-Cobalt even more optimistic was the news that Tigres will be missing a few key members to their squad. Facing a different Tigres than a week ago, RSL will look to knock out the competition favorites.
Reliving the first half of leg one
The Claret-and-Cobalt impressed pundits and fans alike with their vigor and organization in the first half of the match in Monterrey, Mexico. The squad, in preseason form, looked organized and created chances. Moreover, the visitors were able to nullify any of the host's attacks. RSL will hope to find this form once again and with the addition of home fans backing them up.
Both MLS teams, DC United and LA Galaxy, came crashing out of the continental tournament last night after conceding early. Both squads allowed the opposition to score in the first 20 minutes of their respective matches. Neither club was able to come back from an early deficit leaving the two Mexican sides advancing to the semi-finals.
RSL will hope to avoid this and instead take the initiative against the hosts. Down only two goals, RSL has a real chance at making up ground. The narrative chances drastically, however, if Tigres is able to score an away-goal to take the initiative from the hosts. The Claret-and-Cobalt will have to be organized at the back whether or not they have the ball. RSL cannot at any time allow Tigres to convert on a fast counter-attack.
Exploiting the replacements
Tigres announced on Monday that the club would be without some of its key contributors for the second leg of the CONCACAF quarterfinals:
Los ausentes para el partido en RSL son @pollobv @rafaelsobis y Jorge Torres Nilo, los últimos dos por suspensión. pic.twitter.com/gXiiwbWZtx— CLUB TIGRES OFICIAL (@TigresOficial) February 29, 2016
The tweet confirms that Tigres will be without defenders Jorge Torres Nilo and Antonio Breseno, as well as attacker Rafael Sobis. News also came out that backup striker Fernando Fernandez would also be missing the match. Another player that might not see the pitch is Javier Aquino would also missed the first leg as no news about his condition has been released.
In all, this appears to be a very different side than RSL faced in Mexico. Tigres comes to Rio Tinto weaker than they were and this could hurt the club's hopes. It is hard enough playing away from home but without the ability to feed Andre-Pierre Gignac - with the suspected absences of Sobis and Aquino - the Tigres could have a hard time placing the ball in the back of the net. This might alleviate some of the pressure on the RSL defense which could be big going forward.
But RSL should still be wary of the Mexican side and their depth. While the secondary players are not as deadly as their first tier counterparts, they can still have flashes of brilliance. The left footed José Francisco Torres or Hugo Ayala as an inverted left back could fill in for the injuried Torres Nilo, while the young Argentine Lucas Zelarayan will likely take the place of Sobis.
The finishing touch
As I referenced before, RSL outshot Tigres in the first half of the first leg. This in itself is a big statistic, RSL being the road side. The problem is that the Claret-and-Cobalt was not able to punish Tigres. Multiple times the Mexican side bent but did not break. While this might have been disheartening for RSL, it could prove to be a weak spot tonight for a squad that is now a week out of preseason.
Real has shown they can penetrate the Auriazules' formation and create chances. The big thing here is for the attackers to finish these chances which always seems a bit easier for the men in claret and cobalt. Taking the advantage early would give RSL some breathing room so look to RSL to push early and hard at the RioT.
DEF: Jimenez, Rivas, Juninho (C), Ayala
MID: Duenas, Pizarro, Damm, Zelarayan, Alvarez
DEF: Beltran, Olave, Maund, Phillips
MID: Beckerman (C), Sunny, Morales
ATT: Burrito, Movsisyan, Plata
Keys to the match:
Don't concede early, or better yet at all
Exploit opposition replacements
Finish your chances
Real Salt Lake play Tigres at Rio Tinto Stadium at 8 p.m.