Brian Nicholson, Deseret News
MONTERREY, Mexico — Jason Kreis said he desperately wanted to become the first MLS team to win in Mexico.
A tie never felt as good as it did on Wednesday night, though.
Having been thoroughly outplayed the entire second half, and with Monterrey closing in on a third goal, Javier Morales scored a stunning goal in the 89th minute to lift the visitors to an improbable 2-2 draw in front of a sold-out Estadio Tecnologico in the first leg of the CONCACAF Champions League final.
MLS teams are still 0-for-25 in Mexico, but that's just fine with Kreis.
"I think it's the best draw of my life, no doubt about it. I'm really, really proud of what the guys put into that, and I know it wasn't easy at all. It was difficult circumstances for us," said Kreis.
RSL now returns home for the second leg at Rio Tinto Stadium next Wednesday night. With its two road goals in Mexico, a victory, a 0-0 tie or a 1-1 tie will be good enough for Real Salt Lake to clinch the continental title in its home stadium.
Morales said there's nothing to celebrate yet.
"It's very good, but it means nothing 'cause we have to go home and we have to try and win the game," said Morales.
Until his late goal, it appeared Real Salt Lake would be coming home down 2-1 on aggregate.
He changed all that with a fantastic bit of individual skill after receiving a ball in the box from Arturo Alvarez. He thought about taking a quick shot, but with a defender closing quickly he cut it back on the right side of the penalty area and fired a driven shot just inside the far post.
"He takes that touch right, and I said 'goal.' He's done that so many times to us in training," said Nat Borchers.
What was a great finish was actually a nightmare start for RSL.
It took Monterrey just 18 minutes to breakdown RSL's defense with an easy goal, as Aldo De Nigris buried an open netter after a failed clearance in the box.
Conceding early wasn't necessarily a surprise.
In all but one of RSL's six Champions League road games, it conceded the first goal. To its credit, it battled back in those five games for a 1-2-2 record.
Five minutes after going down, RSL striker Alvaro Saborio missed a glorious opportunity in the box after a great build-up with Fabian Espindola. His point-blank shot from about 12 yards out was drilled right at keeper Jonathan Orozco.
The missed opportunity seemed to settle the players, and they were rewarded for their patience.
Real Salt Lake pulled a goal back in the 36th minute on a Borchers' backwards header in traffic. Borchers was in the box because of a corner kick, but Monterrey didn't clear the ball out of harm's way enough, and Will Johnson sent it back into a dangerous area, where Borchers was waiting.
"Really happy with the way we responded both times after going a goal down. Now we have our work cut out for us at home," said Borchers.
It was just the fourth home goal allowed by Monterrey in the Champions League.
The Rayados (striped ones) looked shaky the rest of the first half, but settled down and really dominated the second half.
In the 60th minute, Jamison Olave went from hero to goat in a matter of seconds.
First, he was fantastic making a lunging block on a shot by Neri Cardozo. The heroics were short-lived, though, as he whiffed on a clearance, with the ball popping up and hitting his arm. The El Salvadoran ref didn't hesitate pointing to the spot for a penalty.
- Cougars in the pros: Austin Collie re-signs...
- Commentary: Long-term success in independence...
- Former Cougar star Jackson Emery shares...
- 2014 NBA draft tracker: An ongoing look at...
- BYU basketball: Breaking down UMass, Cougars'...
- Illuminating: Utah Olympic gold medalist...
- Dick Harmon: Are we spending too much money...
- High school boys basketball: Underdogs shine...
- Mike Sorensen: Despite disappointing... 194
- Utah basketball: Runnin' Utes come up... 102
- College football re-rankings: Where do... 60
- Unbeaten Utes hit the road for the... 58
- Dick Harmon: Are we spending too much... 55
- Sources: Former BYU quarterback Steve... 51
- BYU basketball: 3 players record... 47
- Dick Harmon: USC taps BYU experience... 45