For the second time this month, Real Salt Lake has a chance to prove itself against a quality Central American team.
RSL's players and coaches hope and expect it to be a better showing tonight against Saprissa of the Costa Rican league than it was on July 3 against Santos Laguna out of Mexico.
Three weeks ago, Santos outplayed a mix of RSL's first-teamers and reserves from the opening whistle and dominated with a 4-1 win.
Salt Lake coach Jason Kreis plans on approaching tonight's 8 o'clock game at Rice-Eccles Stadium similarly; he just hopes his players respond better.
"We've got to be more competitive for sure," said Kreis.
Looking back on the Santos loss, Kreis believes the final score is a bit deceiving, with his team giving up a pair of late counterattack goals. That may be true, but RSL's woeful opening half-hour forced the team into its late-game, all-out-attack predicament.
With its next league game not until Monday, tonight's contest against Saprissa comes at the opportune time.
"It's a chance to play all our guys, which is good, and get everybody some minutes without killing anybody. But at the same time, we want to represent MLS and show we're as good as teams from other countries. We've done that pretty well with European teams in the past," said Real defender Chris Wingert. "Hopefully, we'll have a better showing."
RSL should have a familiar face back in the lineup tonight.
Fabian Espindola, who's been battling a variety of injuries this year but most recently an MCL sprain, is expected to play for the first time since May 31 against Saprissa.
"We're still trying to gauge how many minutes it will be," said Kreis. "We're going to be excited to see him, and I hope the fans are excited to see him back out there, as well."
Espindola left that May 31 game against San Jose at halftime with a sprained left MCL, and he's missed eight straight games since.
In his eight games prior to the injury, Espindola registered three goals, still only one shy of the team lead despite missing almost two months.
"Before he was injured, he was scoring at a pretty regular clip for us, so we will hope he can bring the same thing back when he gets his opportunity," said Kreis.ENDLINES: A postgame Pioneer Day fireworks show will follow the match.
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