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Chris Kamrani
Chris Kamrani covers Real Salt Lake for the Tribune.

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Coach sees complacency as the real enemy for RSL in Champions League

If there is one lesson that coach Jason Kreis has preached to RSL as it prepares for its big Champions League showdown with Saprissa of Costa Rica tonight, it's that a two-goal lead is nothing — especially when a team has to go on the road to defend it.

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"I believe strongly that 2-0 is a very dangerous scoreline in soccer," Kreis told a packed press conference. "And oftentimes that comes about because of complacency. We're going to have to recognize that this is still a huge, huge challenge in front of us and not to become complacent for one moment."

RSL is trying to protect the 2-0 lead it earned in the first leg of the two-game semifinal, and will advance to the title round of the tournament with a win, draw or one-goal loss against the Purple Monster at Saprissa Stadium tonight. Even a two-goal loss will get it through, so long as it scores a goal itself.

The game starts at 8 p.m., and will be televised live on Fox Soccer Channel.

Seemingly all of Major League Soccer has rallied behind RSL, the first league team to reach the semifinals of the important regional tournament. Dwayne De Rosario of the New York Red Bulls and Joe Cannon of the Vancouver Whitecaps are among the players who tweeted good luck to RSL this morning, and the Columbus Crew also have posted good wishes.

"That's the exciting part," RSL's Will Johnson said. "We have the whole league behind us, fans from all over the country are going to be watching and cheering us on and we've got to represent Major League Soccer" tonight.

Meanwhile, players and coaches have been trying to make sure they don't get caught up in all the talk about the challenge of playing at intimidating Saprissa Stadium, where players sometimes can't even hear one another speak in the locker room beneath the stands because of all the fans jumping and cheering.

But Johnson downplayed that effect, saying RSL has too many experienced and international players to be intimidated.

"Not as big a deal as it’s made out to be," he said. "We have a group of guys who are excited about the challenge instead of intimidated. With our experience and diversity in the squad I think the guys are relishing the opportunity to play in that stadium."

Both goalkeeper Nick Rimando and Kreis agreed, saying RSL doesn't need to worry about whether it can hear over the din, on or off the field.

"One of our best attributes as a team right now is that we’ve been together for a very long time," Kreis said. "Our players have a very firm understanding of how each other likes to play, where each is going to be when we have the ball and when we don’t have the ball. It doesn’t demand a lot of communication from the bench and it doesn’t demand a lot of verbal communication on the field. They have a very good understanding."

Copyright 2014 The Salt Lake Tribune. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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