SAN JOSE, Costa Rica– A relaxed Real Salt Lake squad went through the paces at Estadio Ricardo Saprissa on Monday in preparation for its CONCACAF Champions League decider against Deportivo Saprissa on Tuesday night (10pm, Fox Soccer Channel).
RSL comes in healthy and in good form, playing the most attractive soccer in MLS and looking every bit like a club capable of posting a win in the hostile environment at Estadio Saprissa.
Real Salt Lake will enter the match holding a 2-0 lead, meaning the pressure will be on the home team to erase the deficit. Defense will be a priority for RSL, but anybody expecting RSL to bunker down is going to be surprised.
“We’re going to come in and try and win, try and be the better of the two teams in the first 15 minutes,” Beckerman said. “If we can really put on some pressure, maybe even get a goal in the beginning, that’s what we’re going to be looking to do.
“In terms of bunkering in, maybe that’s something we’d do at the end of the game and it’s close,” Beckerman said. “But for the most part we’re going to come out and try to win.”
RSL head coach Jason Kreis made it clear that RSL would not be coming to San Jose to defend for 90 minutes, and the reality is that Deportivo Saprissa has been struggling offensively in recent weeks and could be forced to commit extra numbers into the attack. That could play right into an RSL side with the weapons to punish any Saprissa sloppiness.
The leading story lines heading into the match were how RSL would deal with the intimidating atmosphere of Estadio Saprissa and Alvaro Saborio's return to San Jose to take on the team where he enjoyed the best time of his career.
Saborio burned his former club in the first leg, scoring a vital goal, and he could once again find success against a Saprissa defense that will come in short-handed due to suspensions.
As for the environment at the stadium, Deportivo Saprissa is offering 2-for-1 deals in an attempt to draw a large crowd to the stadium after the club drew a meager crowd for its recent league match.
The field at Estadio Saprissa is also in much better shape than it was two years ago, when the U.S. national team came to San Jose and suffered a 3-1 loss in World Cup qualifying. The artificial turf has been replaced with a better, but still not ideal, surface.
The key to the match will rest in central midfield, where Saprissa will be counting on Walter Centeno to work his magic offensively, while the RSL combination of Javier Morales and Kyle Beckerman will look to control the action.
“We’ve got a lot of veterans on our team and a lot of guys that have been in situations and environments like this before,” said RSL goalkeeper Nick Rimando. “It’s just about us digesting it in the first half and getting through it. If we can get a point or come in at zeros at halftime I think we’re sitting pretty.”
RSL enters the match with all of its key players available, meaning the club will have every chance to make its 2-0 lead stand up and become the first MLS team to reach the CONCACAF Champions League final.
Here is a CONCACAF preview of Tuesday night's Champions League semifinal second leg:
What do you see happening on Tuesday night in San Jose? Think Real Salt Lake can hold its lead and win the semifinal series?