When you think about the reality that Real Salt Lake is still about 2 weeks from the start of their MLS season, and facing a team that many expect to win the CONCACAF Champions League, the hill is steep. It doesn’t mean you don’t try, it means you have to be very smart in how you approach things, but I don’t thing RSL needs to be afraid of Tigres. The reality is that in soccer the better team doesn’t always win, we have been on the losing side of matches in the past where we simply were the better team. So for me it is all about playing within yourself, knowing that you are facing a quality opponent that is in form as they are 7 matches into their season already (3-2-2 with 13 GF and 9 GA).
I fully expect the RSL lineup to be the same as the lineup they went with in their Saturday morning scrimmage with FC Tucson:
Beltran – Olave – Maund – Phillips
Sunny – Beckerman – Morales
Burrito – Yura – Plata
To get a result in Monterrey will require playing simple, not making mistakes and taking advantage of any opportunities that may present themselves.
These guys know what their jobs are, all of them have years of experience and have played in big matches before. RSL shouldn’t try to play for a draw, that rarely works out, you play to win. I expect if this match were played in 5-6 weeks that RSL would probably have a squad that would have had a chance to gel a bit more but that isn’t the case and so guys are still fighting to build that understanding of how each other plays, but again keeping it simple, sticking to the basics and avoiding mistakes will be the key.
The biggest test will be on defense, this is the same group that struggled last year in MLS action, and they will be facing Andre-Pierre Gignac, the French striker for Tigres that has already found the back of the net 7 times in 6 matches (3 of them came in a 3-1 win over Leon). The upside for RSL is that Tigres will be without midfielder Javier Aquino, who is the motor who makes their side tick, he is their Javier Morales.
RSL will face a familiar foe in Juninho who made the move from LA to Tigres this off season, RSL could see a former player if Luis Silva should make his Tigres debut in this match.
I forgot that Juninho is actually cup tied since he was registered by the LA Galaxy, so while he doesn’t appear to have played in any matches for them, he was on the 18 man roster which means he was registered. Luis Silva did play for RSL in CCL match (3 minutes) and so both Silva and Juninho will not be able to play for Tigres. Here is a shot of the rulebook from CONCACAF:
There are plenty of guys on this roster who a big match like this is nothing new, Nick Rimando, Kyle Beckerman, Tony Beltran, Jamison Olave, Javier Morales, were all a part of the RSL side in 2010/11 that made a run to the CCL final. Guys like Yura Movsisyan, Juan Manuel “Burrito” Morales, and Sunny Obayan have all played in big matches for their former clubs and/or national teams. So this is nothing new for our guys, it is a chance to put last year behind them and to put their MLS rivals on notice that they are going to be a serious contender in 2016.
I firmly believe that for RSL to get a result that will keep them alive for the second leg, something like a draw or even a 1-2 or 2-3 loss on Wednesday would probably be OK, getting a goal will be very important as road goals are weighted in this tournament and holding a team like Tigres goalless in the second leg will be very, very difficult. Smart possession, not giving the ball away in dangerous positions, no silly fouls or cards (remember this is CONCACAF and we have seen strange calls in CCL matches in the past), and take advantage of any chances to score.
I can’t think of many matches in my blogging career that I have picked RSL to lose, if any, but I expect us to lose this match as the deck is simply stacked against us in a huge way. Now if we can get a goal and not get blown out (lose by more than 2 goals) then I think we have a shot to do some real damage in the second leg. It is going to be cold next week, add in the elevation, and what should be a very pro RSL crowd at Rio Tinto, all of those things will give RSL as much of (if not more of) an advantage as what Tigres will have on Wednesday.
That’s How I See It