After handling Galaxy, Real Salt Lake can turn attention to Champions League
Brian Nicholson, Deseret News
SANDY — Saturday's 4-1 victory over Los Angeles was a huge result for Real Salt Lake, one of its best in Rio Tinto Stadium history.
Now RSL can shift its focus back to the CONCACAF Champions League, and specifically Saprissa.
As big as Saturday's match with with the Galaxy was, in the build-up coach Jason Kreis admitted the Saprissa match "is the most important thing on our plate right now."
After taking care of business on Saturday, the semifinal showdown on April 5 now has Real Salt Lake's undivided attention — and confidence couldn't be higher.
"It's huge," said RSL keeper Nick Rimando. "When you beat a team like L.A. the way we did today it definitely gives us confidence going into this big game against Saprissa."
Salt Lake beat Saprissa 2-0 in the first leg of its semifinal series at Rio Tinto Stadium on March 16. Keeping the clean sheet gives RSL a huge advantage heading into the second leg because of the away goals tiebreaker rule.
A 3-0 loss or higher would eliminate RSL, and a 2-0 loss would force the series to be decided by 30 minutes of overtime and then penalty kicks if necessary. Any other result will see the visitors become the first MLS team to advance to the Champions League final.
RSL will head into the match with a 4-0-1 record in all competitions this season, with an 11-2 goal differential. It has a few extra days to prepare as well, which Kreis is very happy about.
"You can begin to see they've worked so hard, they've put so much into the beginning of the season that I think it's going to give us a great opportunity to give those guys two or three days off this week, which I think they need," said Kreis. "And the rest of the group has a reserve game on Tuesday (against FC Dallas), which is exactly what I think they need to continue their match fitness and make sure everybody is ready for next Tuesday."
Real Salt Lake will have a full complement of players available as Alvaro Saborio, Will Johnson and Arturo Alvarez will all be back from their respective international duty.
As well Paulo Jr. played against the Galaxy starting in place of Saborio, Kreis admits picking a starting 11 for the second Saprissa match will be tough.
"The choices will continue to be tough and we'll continue to get everyone to buy in that this is about the team," said Kreis.
Real Salt Lake is 2-0 for the first time in team history, and is tied with arch-rival Colorado and Philadelphia as the only 2-0 teams in MLS.
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