Brian Nicholson, Deseret News
SANDY — One of the biggest objectives for Real Salt Lake in Tuesday night's CONCACAF Champions League semifinal was to keep Deportivo Saprissa from scoring since road goals are at a premium in the international competition.
In shutting out the Costa Rican club, RSL puts itself in a great position going into the second leg of the competition next month. If RSL scores just one away goal, then Saprissa will have to score four goals to win and advance to the finals.
"It was very important for us to keep a shutout," said coach Jason Kreis. "If they just scored one goal, it would be a good result for them whether they tied or lost."
Kreis praised his overall defense, which included Tony Beltran and Nat Borchers, who both missed the last game, and was very happy with goaltender Nick Rimando.
"On any given night, you're going to have guys step forward and play special," Kreis said. "Tonight it was Nick Rimando's night to be special. He made some incredible clutch saves for us."
There was about a 30-minute stretch in the game where Kreis felt some of his players took a few plays off, but Rimando came through with big saves including one in the 32nd minute on a hard shot by Jairo Arrieta.
"We have to have everyone tuned in defensively for 90 minutes on every single play," Kreis said. "We had to rely on Nick Rimando, probably a little bit more than I'd like to."
Rimando was happy with his play as well as the defenders in front of him.
"Our objective was to win the game and not give any goals up and that's exactly what we did," he said. "You've got to stay focused the whole time and they had a couple of shots I had to make a save on, but that's my job. When there's no goals going in the back of the net, the defense has done their job."
A BIG DEAL: Casual fans may wonder why Tuesday's contest was called a "monumental game" by Kreis, who also said, "it ranks right up there with MLS Championship."
The CONCACAF (Confederation of North, Central American and Caribbean Association Football) Champions League competition has been played every year but three since 1962. The winner gets to play in the prestigious FIFA Club World Cup in Japan in December against some of the best soccer clubs in the world in an eight-team tournament. In recent years, the likes of Barcelona, Manchester United and A.C. Milan have won the tournament.
To get to Japan, Real must finish off Saprissa next month and then beat either Cruz Azul or Monterrey of Mexico in the finals.
REAL NOTES: Saprissa had five yellow cards compared to none for RSL and also had 20 fouls compared to just nine for RSL. … Starting defender Chris Wingert sat out the game with an ankle injury for RSL. Chris Schuler replaced Jamison Olave on the back line for the second half after Olave had a right hamstring strain. … After getting 15,405 for quarterfinal game against Columbus on March 1, the attendance for Tuesday night's game was 16,888. It was also considerably warmer at 56 degrees at kickoff compared to 35 two weeks earlier. … RSL extended its home unbeaten streak to 35 games. … Saprissa beat RSL in an international friendly match in July of 2008 in Salt Lake.
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