The way Real Salt Lake played Tuesday night in the final game of group play, and the one that would decide whether they would stay on the road to a shot at CCL redemption, should have seen them net a 5-0 score against Costa Rican champ's CS Herediano. But Tuesday was not Salt Lake's night.
They had plenty of chances but couldn't put the ball in the back of the net. Herediano goalie Leo Moreira played out of his mind, with seven saves in the first half alone and ten for the game to earn the visitors a draw.
Tuesday's game knocks RSL out of CCL tournament competition and turns their full attention to the upcoming final game of the MLS season against the Vancouver Whitecaps on Saturday night, and the possibility of earning the second seed in the west.
Real Salt Lake (2-1-1, 7 pts)
Herediano (3-0-1, 10 pts)
Referee: Elmer Bonilla
Score: Real Salt Lake 0, Herediano 0
Club Time Player Action
HER 28' Carlos Hernandez Foul
HER 89' Leonel Moreira Time
RSL 89' Sebastian Velasquez Foul
HER 92' Cristhian Montero Time
Real Salt Lake Herediano
18 Attempts on Goal 6
8 Shots on Target 3
4 Shots off Target 2
6 Blocked Shots 1
11 Corner Kicks 1
18 Fouls 15
26 Open Play Crosses 10
3 Offsides 4
1 First Yellow Cards 3
0 Second Yellow Cards 0
0 Red Cards 0
44 Duels Won 44
50% Duels Won % 50%
520 Total Pass 231
83% Passing Accuracy % 68%
69.1% Possession 30.9%
We've all heard how Nick played midfielder in High School and College and on occasion we've seen his foot skills at work. But Tuesday night he put on a display. Hitting RSL players midfield on running back passes multiple times and even juking Herediano forward Esteban Ramirez in the 18 so badly the poor Costa Rican nearly slid into the goal.
With Herediano content to play for a draw, Tony played into RSL's attack all night. The right side of the pitch was where much of RSL's attack was mounted and Tony's strong passing allowed for accurate sorties that had Herediano on their heels all game.
Nat may have had his best performance of the season across all competitions Saturday night. His defense was water tight all night, but his offense is what brought the crowd to its feet when he headed a Javier Morales corer kick into the back of the net in the 16th minute. Unfortuntely it was called back due to a push-off foul in the box by Chris Schuler. He nearly did it again in the 28th minute were it not for a superb fingertip save by CS Herediano goalie Leo Moreira.
Chris Schuler had a solid outing Saturday but a handful of errors made things a little uncomfortable for the boys in Claret and Cobalt. His push-off foul in the 16th minute kept a Nat Borchers goal from putting RSL up 1-0. He also found himself out of position two or three times against Herediano's lethal counterattack, leading to the Costa Rican side's only shot on goal in the first half. A poor pass in the 56th minute from the young central defender gave Herediano their first of two shots on goal of the second half, which just barely pinged off the post to keep the score nil-nil.
Chris Wingert was called on to play much more offense than he is used to. While he is clearly not a speed demon, he was effective in maintaining possession and keeping play directed at goal.
Will Johnson was an animal in the midfield. His speed and never ending engine had the Herediano midfield gassed by the end of the first half. Will was substituted in the 73rd minute for the more offensive minded Sebastian Velasquez.
Man of the Match
Javier Morales has started 21 games now for RSL in all competitions. And his form is as good as it's been, ever. Tuedsay night at Tio Tinto he did everything from spot on corner and free kicks to teaming up with Luis Gil, Paulo Jr. and Fabian Espindola to keep RSL well out in front of Herediano most of the night. His shot in the 44th minute nearly capped a superb first half were it not for another terrific save by Leo Moreira.
Kyle Beckerman has clearly made a case to be named to Major League Soccer's First Eleven at his position but his play in Concacaf competition has been stellar. Is it possible he relishes Champion's League play? Apparently so. Along with Will Johnson the two were a veritable wrecking crew Saturday night against Heredino, and his volley shot on goal in the 37th minute had the power to score, but was aimed right at the Goalie for a relatively easy save.
Having Luis on the field at the same time as Javier Morales is like having two pitchers on the mound in baseball. The two of them shredded Herediano's midfield and defensive line, winning the possession game handily for RSL. That said, more aggression from Gil, especially in the first half when Real had the Costa Rican champs on the ropes, might have been just what they needed to break through and score.
Fabian Espindola was a nightmare to the Herediano defense, slashing and burning the all night long, creating chance after chance at goal for himself and his teammates. His bicycle kick in the 61st minute ricocheted off a Herediano defender and found its way to Tony Beltran who pounded it into the net but Espindola was called for a dangerous kick.
Paulo Jr. seems to come up big against Concacaf opponents, and while he didn't score, he played a major role in helping Real keep possession in Herediano's final third.
Kenny Mansally was subbed on in behalf of Chris Schuler in the 62nd minute, sending Wingert back to play central back. His speed and athleticism had an impact on the worn out Herediano side, but the three opportunities he had to send the ball into the box were each just off the mark. Chris injured his calf and will have an MRI done Wednesday morning.
Jonny Steele came on for Luis Gil in the 68th minute. Adreneline may have gotten the better of him because both positioning and passing were less than adequate most of his 22 minutes, a trend that seemed to continue from last Saturday's draw at Seattle.
Sebastian Velasquez was subbed on for Will Johnson in the 73rd minute as an attacking option and made several super runs into the box, but Tuesday was not a Real night and the feisty midfielder let his frustration get the better of him, earning a yellow card caution in the 89th minute.
See the postgame report and video highlights of RSL's draw with CS Herediano