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Real Salt Lake eyeing Saprissa, start of 2011 season

Published: Saturday, March 12 2011 2:17 a.m. MST

MLS commissioner Don Garber was in the Utah for Real Salt Lake's quarterfinal victory over Columbus in the CONCACAF Champions League earlier this month, and though he'd never admit it, he had to be thrilled that RSL advanced. What's not to love about seeing 15,000 fans on hand to watch a Tuesday night match in the winter.

The commish has never shied away from stating how important it is for MLS teams to do well in the Champions League, and RSL definitely gives the league its best shot at a champion.

The first leg of RSL's quarterfinal series with Costa Rican club Deportivo Saprissa kicks off this Tuesday at 8 p.m. at Rio Tinto Stadium. RSL enters the match on a 34-match unbeaten streak in all competitions, and it's vital RSL prevails in the first game according to Boxscorenews.com's Enrique Borja. The former Mexico National Team striker has been impressed with Real Salt Lake throughout the Champions League, but does admit RSL faces a tough task with the second leg in Costa Rica.

RSL fans in Utah know what a fortress Rio Tinto Stadium really is, and believe Saprissa might be in for a surprise on Tuesday. Nobody would be more happy for an RSL victory than Tyler Walter from the Bleacher Report who boldly predicted that the MLS team would win the Champions League this year – a prediction he made back on Feb. 19.

For good reason, a ton of attention is being paid to Real Salt Lake this preseason, and RSL uber-blogger Denz of RSLsoapbox.com wonders if it's too much of a good thing. He mentions that both Kyle Beckerman and Nick Rimando have been tagged by UK bloggers as potential MLS players who could make it in the English Premier League.

RSL fans can rest easy tough, both are under contract through the 2013 season.

With so much attention being paid to this Tuesday's Champions League match, it's easy to forget that Real Salt Lake kicks off the 2011 MLS season on Saturday, March 19 at San Jose. ESPN.com analyzes the upcoming season, and pin points Alvaro Saborio and Will Johnson as two very important pieces to the puzzle this year.

Other players will have to step up as well for RSL to be successful in its bid to win one of four trophies it's pursuing in 2011, Champions League, U.S. Open Cup, MLS Supporters Shield and MLS Cup. Coach Jason Kreis and several of his players discuss that reality in an MLSsoccer.com video.

If Rimando can duplicate his 2010 season in 2011, it's hard to imagine Real Salt Lake not capturing at least one of those pieces of hardware this year, and Goal.com believes this is the year Rimando finally garners the postseason accolades he deserves by predicting him as the MLS Goalkeeper of the Year.

Two weeks after packing Rio Tinto Stadium with 15,000 fans for the quarterfinals, RSL is hoping to surpass that total in the semifinals, and Rimando said on his Twitter on his Twitter feed that he's considering giving away his jersey if the team does reach 18,000.

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