ANALYSIS: Monterrey beat RSL, overcame odds
Nearly every one of the 20,378 at
Rio Tinto Stadium on Wednesday night were in his or her seat by the time Real
Salt Lake and Monterrey came out for pre-game warm-ups. And the intensity
within the confines of RSL's home for the second leg of the CONCACAF Champions
League finals was something not seen there before.
After the 2-2 draw at Estadio
Tecnologico the week before, the expectations of Salt Lake City and Major
League Soccer fans were stratospheric. Monterrey was walking into a fortress,
facing a Real Salt Lake team that hadn't lost at home in nearly two years and
sitting on a 34-game unbeaten streak - 37 if you count friendlies.
Adding to burden on "Los
Rayados" was they hadn't won in seven matches, including a 1-1 result
against Puebla on Saturday. It had fallen to eighth overall in the Clausura and
would require a win at Chivas this week to guarantee a playoff berth.
With news media constantly noting
its winless skid since March 19, Monterrey took a private charter Monday to the
altitude and snow of the Wasatch Front, with even more hurdles of being without
starters Aldo De Nigris and Jesus Zavala due to yellow card accumulation and
captain Luis Perez because of injury.
Conversely, Real Salt Lake, head
coach Jason Kreis only had one true starting XI concern - the absence of
captain Kyle Beckerman due to a dubious yellow card shown in the first leg.
That meant Ned Grabavoy would replace Beckerman in the defensive midfield, not
a calamity considering Real Salt Lake was unbeaten in 10 home games - including
seven victories -- when Beckerman wasn't in the starting lineup.
Everything seemed stacked in Salt
Lake's favor, and against Monterrey.
The first half started exactly as
one would expect, with the exception that the RSL faithful were out in force
never seen before. The club had made tickets to the match available to
season-ticket holders first - and except for those allocated to Monterrey, the
match was a sell out before tickets even were made available to the general
It led to a uniquely partisan Real
Salt Lake/MLS crowd not usually seen when a United States club plays a titled
With the early chances and
possession leaning toward the home side, Monterrey found its footing around the
30th minute, despite the altitude and the fact the team was playing its eighth
match in 24 days.
And it would be the man who
concerned Jason Kreis' coaching staff most, Chilean international and two- time
Mexican league scoring leader Humberto Suazo, who caused the damage. He
finished a quick sequence of one-touch passing with Sergio Santana with a
right, then a left foot to score six second into first-half injury time.
After all of Salt Lake's preaching
about doing the little things better and limiting opportunities in the final
third, Suazo made Real Salt Lake pay dearly with a composed finish that gave
Monterrey the 1-0 lead and ultimately the 3-2 aggregate advantage.
Kreis bemoaned the lack of simple
possession and forced direct play by his men in that final 15 minutes in the
first half, and replaced Robbie Russell at the start of the second with Tony
Beltran at right back. The focus on the last 45 minutes of this two-leg affair
would see the home side attacking relentlessly, only to see Monterrey repel
admirably time and time again.
Kreis' last two substitutions would
be offensive, bringing on Arturo Alvarez and Paulo Jr. while Victor Manuel
Vucetich countered with defensive reinforcements Duilio Davino and Severo Meza.
And despite doing everything within
their power to beat Jonathan Orozco, Real Salt Lake would fall at home for the
first time since May 2009, giving the crown to Monterrey.
And it's not only the title that
Monterrey and manager Victor Manuel Vucetich can boast about, it's their claim
to be the first club to go undefeated in the entire tournament.
What's even more incredible is that
Monterrey also could have claimed the honor and still not win the CONCACAF
Champions League trophy -- if the match had ended 0-0 or 1-1.
It's an incredible little game we