Tuesday night in Salt Lake City is forecast to be cold, wet, and nasty. That is only appropriate given that the play on a bit nasty as both sides will be looking to be the team that will advance from group 2 to the knockout rounds of the Champions League. CS Herediano holds the upper hand as they currently have 9 points to RSL’s 6, for RSL the reality is simple: Win. OK not that simple, RSL must either win 1-0, or they must win by 2 goals in order to advance. A 1-0 win would see the two sides go to the tiebreakers, and it would be the 6th tiebreaker (GD in all group stage matches) that would give RSL the win with the 1-0 result (it would boost RSL’s overall GD to a +3, and drop Herediano to a +2). A two goal win by RSL would give us the second tiebreaker (head to head GD) as RSL lost the first leg 1-0, so a 2 goal win would advance RSL via a different tiebreaker.
RSL faces a huge question on Tuesday, who will fill in for Alvaro Saborio? Where will the goals come from? RSL has scored just 3 goals in their 3 CCL matches so far this year, Saborio has two of them and Kyle Beckerman the other. All of RSL’s goals in Champions League action have come in the second half of matches. Real Salt Lake are 3-1-1 in their last 5 league matches and currently 5th in MLS with a 17-11-5 record.
CS Herediano on the other hand have scored 3 of their 4 goals in the first half of their matches, each of their goals has been scored by a different player: Elías Aguilar, Pablo Salazar, Waylon Francis, and Enoc Pérez. It was Aguilar who scored against RSL when the teams faced off in Costa Rica. Herediano are 2-1-2 in their last 5 league matches and currently sit in 3rd place in league play with a overall 7-3-6 record.
The last time these two teams faced off RSL held the advantage in most statistical area, with more possession, more shots, more passes, and a higher percentage of completed passes but an early goal by Herediano and a 58th minute red card to Nat Borchers were enough for the home side to get the 1-0 win.
For Real Salt Lake the mission is simple they must score, and unless they can keep a solid offensive side in Herediano from scoring, they will need to score multiple goals. While RSL was held without a goal in their last league match (a 0-0 draw at Seattle), the team has scored 8 goals in the last 4 MLS matches while giving up just 2 goals. At Rio Tinto Stadium RSL has a +12 goal differential with 27 goals scored and just 15 goals allowed in MLS play. When it comes to CCL action, Rio Tinto has been very good to RSL:
August 18, 2010 Árabe Unido (PAN) # 2-1 W
Sept. 15, 2010 Toronto FC (CAN) # 4-1 W
Oct. 19, 2010 Cruz Azul (MEX) # 3-1 W
March 1, 2011 Columbus Crew (USA) # 4-1 W
March 15, 2011 Dep. Saprissa (CRC) # 2-0 W
April 27, 2011 Monterrey (MEX) # 0-1 L
August 21, 2012 Tauro FC (PAN) 2-0 W
That is an impressive 6-1-0 record in home CCL matches, with 17 goals scored and just 5 goals allowed for a +12 goal differential at Rio Tinto Stadium.
The injury report for RSL is a bit bleak, there likely be no Jamison Olave, Ned Grabavoy, or Kwame Watson-Siriboe and with the suspension of Alavaro Saborio the RSL lineup will see some other players getting chances. The upside of that is that Chris Schuler has been rock solid since returning from his foot injury, Luis Gil has had a breakout year, and Paulo Jr. used the 2010/11 CCL as the place where he showed his true potential. While Fabian Espindola has been under the weather, I expect with so much on the line that it would take a major ailment to keep him from action. We could also see RSL newcomer David Viana get into the CCL mix, he made his first team debut last Wednesday in the match at Seattle coming on late for RSL. I do think we could see him earlier in this match if RSL need an offensive spark.
The pressure will be on the midfield to deliver and with Kyle Beckerman, Javier Morales and Will Johnson holding down their normal spots we should be able to dominate the possession and create plenty of chances, we also know that all three of those players have the ability to score goals for RSL as well, and on Tuesday night we may just need one of them to provide that offensive spark.
The conditions will play a role in the match, as a cold front moves into the area and we can expect temps around 40, wind and probably rain during the match. None of these are things that RSL hasn’t had to deal with before but they could provide Herediano with some issues as they will be unfamiliar with these conditions as well as playing at elevation. This means that RSL need to capitalize on every opportunity they have to make Herediano run and chase the match, and early RSL goal would force Herediano to come out of what will be a tight defensive shell and play.
I see this match being a lot closer than most people, I expect RSL will struggle to get a 3-1 win to advance. A loud crowd, despite the conditions will be needed to help provide some motivation and energy for the players of RSL, so be there early (8pm start) and be loud.
That’s How I See It