Notes and quotes from Real Salt Lake, which plays Herediano on Tuesday night in a CONCACAF Champions League match at Rio Tinto Stadium:
Midfielder Will Johnson says the key to defeating Herediano is "... experience. Just experience and professionalism and not trying to go win the game in the first five minutes. Just using our experience in the competition. It's a 90-minute game. We've won a lot of games in the second half. Most games are won in the second half. So patience."
Johnson hopes Real Salt Lake can advance to the Champions League quarterfinals in February, in part, for the fans in Utah: "This needs to happen for our fan-base. They have adopted the CONCACAF Champions League like no other fan-base in the league. They believe in it. They love the tournament, as we do. So for us to continue on in that tournament for our fans is very important."
Herediano defeated RSL, 1-0, on July 31. Coach Jason Kreis knows winning the rematch won't be easy: "Herediano is a very good team -- a very well-coached team, a disciplined team, a hard team to break down and score goals against. And they have some very dynamic attacking players that take up different spots to create goal-scoring chances and finish. For me, it will be one of the best teams we've played."
Because of tie-breakers, RSL must beat Herediano by specific margins -- 1-0 or by at least two goals -- to advance in the Champions League. Said Kreis: "... It's a very difficult opponent for us, especially knowing that we have to have a particular result. It would be easier if we just said we have to win. But knowing that we have to win by a certain score-line, I think, makes it a little more difficult."
The experience of playing Herediano once will help Real Salt Lake, according to Kreis. He did not have much video or other information on the Costa Rican team prior to the first CONCACAF game against it. "There's no doubt," Kreis said. "From a coaching and teaching perspective, we've seen a lot more of Herediano. We have a lot more games to draw from -- to show our players. ... I think the guys know what to expect now."
Real Salt Lake reached the Champions League final in 2011, when it lost to Monterry. General manager Garth Lagerwey believes the franchise greatly benefited from the exposure and would again, if RSL gets past Herediano and performs well in the knock-out rounds. Lagerwey says "the single-best way to put our club on the map" and recruit top players in the future would be to win the Champions League. "We're the smallest market in Major League Soccer," he said. "We'll never be able to spend dollar-for-dollar with New York and Los Angeles. But if we have success in the Champions League, it will put us on the biggest stage. We will get attention from all over the world."
Asked to describe his emotions prior to Tuesday night's game, Lagerwey said, "I'm not nervous. I think we're a good enough team, capable of winning. ... When you lay out long-term strategic goals, you can't shy away from difficult games. When you start something like this, you have to believe."
-- Steve Luhm
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