Just had a chance to chat with broadcaster Kyle Martino, who will be part of the broadcast team on Fox Soccer Channel for RSL's home game against Monterrey in the finals of the Champions League on Wednesday night, and he agreed with team majority owner Dave Checketts.
If RSL wins the tournament, "it's the biggest accomplishment that Major League Soccer has ever seen."
Maybe not everybody is completely sure about that yet, though.
Martino said that after making that statement on the air recently, broadcast colleague John Harkes texted him to ask about the D.C. United and Los Angeles Galaxy teams that won previous incarnations of the Champions League, then called the Champions Cup in 1998 and 2000.
The tournament was smaller, then, during the infancy of MLS — only eight teams — and United and the Galaxy needed to win only three games to win the tournament.
RSL, meanwhile, is playing in an expanded 24-team tournament that included 10 group-stage games last year. It has beaten the Columbus Crew and Deportivo Saprissa of Costa Rica in two-game series in both the quarterfinals and semifinals before becoming one of just four MLS teams in 25 tries to earn a result in a meaningful game in Mexico, with its 2-2 draw in the first leg of the finals in Monterrey last week.
"Right now, Real Salt Lake is in that company … of the best teams we've ever seen," Martino said.
A former national-team and MLS player, Martino said RSL clearly is in great shape to win the tournament. "But the fact they're in the driver's seat is a difficult position to be in," because it means Monterrey must come out pressing hard for goals instead of perhaps playing a bit more cautiously.
"Having Monterrey against the wall is a very dangerous thing," Martino said.
Martino also believes RSL suffers the most by not having suspended midfielder Kyle Beckerman available, even though Monterrey is expected to be missing three injured players — midfielder Luis Perez and forwards Aldo de Nigris and Sergio Santana — because Beckerman is such a key piece of the "resolute and strong" midfield that has fueled his team's 37-game home unbeaten streak in all competitions.
Still, he believes RSL can win.
"That will finally wave the Major League Soccer flag like it should have been waved when the D.C. And Galaxy teams won" the tournament years ago, he said.
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