RSL: Chance to win CCL at home "stuff of dreams"
LEHI, Utah – Real Salt Lake manager Jason Kreis isnt’t
entirely convinced that hosting the second leg of the CONCACAF Champions League
finals is necessarily an advantage. He values the opportunity of being able to
stake his team out to an early lead in the series with a first-leg home match.
But now just 90 minutes away from being the first MLS club to taste Champions League success, it’s turned into a very comforting
prospect to take on defending Mexican champions Monterrey at the
fortress that is Rio Tinto Stadium.
“To have to go to Mexico for this game is a completely
different feeling in your stomach,” Kreis said after practice on Monday
afternoon. “To have it in front of your own fans and to have it where we’re so
comfortable. Just to have that possibility in your mind’s eye about being able
to lift the trophy in front of a sellout crowd screaming for us. That’s the
stuff that dreams are made of.”
While the 2-2 draw in Monterrey seemingly gives Real Salt
Lake an edge with two road goals scored in the Estadio Tecnológico,
that opening result is not dictating any of the MLS club’s pregame
“I don’t think the course of this game [on Wednesday] would
have changed much if the result was 2-1 over there,” RSL player Javier Morales
said. “Here [at Rio Tinto] as the home team, we have to go out to win and go out
to attack. In no moment has it crossed our mind to defend. The only thing that
has changed is that there are three results that play in our favor.”
Based on the scrimmages held during Monday’s practice, it
looks as if Ned Grabavoy will be the favorite to start in place of suspended
captain Kyle Beckerman. Veteran Andy Williams is expected to take up the right
midfield spot, which Grabavoy manned in Mexico.
The absence of Beckerman, who wore a colored bib and often played
for the second team during the scrimmages, continued to be a theme. But instead
of focusing on what they lose without Beckerman, the team is turning his
suspension into a motivating factor.
“We’ve built a group that truly cares when one of their own
family members is so deeply hurt because I know he’s very, very hurt by this
decision,” Kreis said. “He’s played his whole life to play in a match like this.
So it’s a very, very difficult situation. I feel a little bit of extra angst
about it and I hope the whole team does as well.”
Of the 10 matches that RSL have played over the last two years at Rio Tinto Stadium without Beckerman, they have compiled an undefeated 7-0-3 record.
RSL come into Wednesday's decider at full strength, excluding their captain’s
suspension for yellow-card accumulation. Forward Paulo Jr. will be available to
play after participating in full training sessions on Saturday and Monday. Fullback
Tony Beltran took part in his first full practice on Monday after recovering
from strep throat.
And if the team needed any extra motivation, the comments
made by Monterrey manager Víctor Manuel Vucetich after the first leg in Mexico
continue to be a talking point in Salt Lake camp. Whether he meant it or not, the
Mexican head coach provided enough bulletin-board material to last a week when
he refused to give enough credit to RSL for their performance in the first match
between the two clubs.
“Talk is cheap,” RSL forward Fabian Espindola said. “If they’re
as good as they say, they have to show it. We have to do our job like we always
have. And so if they’re superior, let them come here and do it.”
Added Kreis, “I personally feel like they disrespected us. And
I hope we can show them what kind of team we are.”