Real Salt Lake's reward for beating Saprissa on Tuesday night was an exhausting travel day to Boston as it prepares for a league match against the New England Revolution this Saturday.
Shortly after landing in Beantown on Wednesday night, RSL learned its fate in the CONCACAF Champions League final, and it won't be the rematch many thought.
In the all-Mexican semifinal affair in Mexico City, visiting Monterrey scored on a late penalty kick to salvage a 1-1 draw with Cruz Azul and advance on aggregate, 3-2.
Monterrey will now take on Real Salt Lake in the two-leg Champions League final, with the winner qualifying for the FIFA Club World Cup in Japan in December.
Monterrey, which plays in the third-largest city in Mexico, will host the first leg on Wednesday, April 20, at 8 p.m. at the Estadio Tecnologico.
The return leg will be at Rio Tinto Stadium on April 27 at 8 p.m."Monterrey is a very good team. Suazo is one of the best attacking players in South America, and they also have a very good set of defenders," said RSL midfielder Javier Morales.
Both teams have enjoyed a tremendous home-field advantage throughout Champions League play. Real Salt Lake went 3-0 at home in group play, outscoring its opponents 9-3. It beat Columbus at home 4-1 in the quarterfinals and then Saprissa 2-0 in the semifinals.
Monterrey, the 2009 and 2010 Mexican League champions, also went 3-0 at home in group play, outscoring the opposition 6-2. In the quarterfinals, it beat Toluca 1-0 at home and then in the semifinals beat Cruz Azul 2-1.
"Monterrey has a lot of pace, a very strong forward up top. They looked very good in first game against Cruz Azul. It will be fun to face a new team, a team that doesn’t know us," said RSL midfielder Will Johnson.
For most of Wednesday's match, however, visiting Monterrey looked like its impressive Champions League run was coming to an end. Cruz Azul grabbed an early lead on Cesar Villaluz's goal in the 23rd minute, and it maintained the lead up until the 81st minute
Everything changed, though, when the referee pointed to the spot after Cruz Azul defender Waldo Alonso pushed a Monterrey player in the back in the 78th minute. Humberto Suazo buried the resulting penalty to tie the game at 1-1, and Monterrey survived as keeper Jonathan Orozco came up with a huge save in the waning minutes.
RSL met Cruz Azul twice in group play, but in Monterrey it will be facing a team it's never played.
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