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

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Could wintery weather help RSL vs. Herediano?

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The weather forcast for Real Salt Lake's CONCACAF Champions League showdown against Herediano on Tuesday night at Rio Tinto Stadium calls for rain, wind and temperatures in the low 40s.

Perfect, perhaps, for RSL.

It's unlikely many players on Costa Rica's Herediano have much experience in such miserable conditions, so Real Salt Lake might have an advantage.

"It could [be]," coach Jason Kreis said Monday morning, after a light training session at Rio Tinto. "I think we're a little more used to playing in cold, sloppy weather this time of year. We're hopeful we can gain some sort of advantage, sure."

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RSL faces two huge games in the next five days.

After trying to advance to the Champions League knock-out round in February against Herediano, Real plays host to Vancouver on Saturday night in a match with Major League Soccer playoff implications.

While RSL is now locked into a first-round Western Conference series with Seattle, it is trying to finish with as many points as possible in search of a potential home-field advantage for the MLS Cup final. Also at stake: a possible invitation to compete in the next Champions League tournament.

Kreis calls it the most enjoyable time of the year for players and coaches.

"There is no more worrying about the summer doldrums for me," he said. "There's no more wracking my brain to try and figure out how to motivate players. We're all motivated by what's directly in front of us -- a do-or-die match against Herediano ... and a playoff situation right around the corner where, hopefully, we can contend for an MLS Cup."

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Herediano is 3-0 in Group 2 of the Champions League. Real Salt Lake is 2-1, including a 1-0 loss to the Costa Rican team on July 31.

Because of tie-breakers, RSL must win this game 1-0 or by two goals to advance to the knock-out round. As a result, Kreis does not know exactly how Herediano will approach the match.

"There are different ways to look at it," he said. "... From their point of view, they could come out and be very defensive, wanting to protect a lead they already have because a draw means they advance. Or they could come out and be aggressive and try to score that first goal, which would mean we'd have to score three."

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On Sunday, Kreis said forward Fabian Espindola and defender Jamison Olave were "50-50" to play against Herediano because of injuries.

Kreis says both players have "shown some improvements," but he declined to speculate whether they would be available Tuesday night.

Espindola left training Sunday with lingering body soreness following last week's 0-0 draw at Seattle. Jamison has been nursing a hamstring injury, which he suffered in the first Champions League match against Herediano.

Meanwhile, midfielder Ned Grabovoy participated in another training session Monday and appears on track to return from a month-long absence because of a quad injury.

-- Steve Luhm



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