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Real Salt Lake’s backs against Champions League wall

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Javier Morales

First published Aug 20 2012 03:31PM
Updated Nov 30, 2012 11:32PM

Sandy • When it comes to Tuesday’s CONCACAF Champions League game, there are no false theatrics for Real Salt Lake and its coach, Jason Kreis.

RSL had pointed toward this competition since the start of the 2012 season. And now, after an opening defeat to Herediano, the pressure is directly on Real.

A loss against Panamanian champion Tauro FC and RSL won’t have to worry about resting players for the Major League Soccer stretch run. For good measure, Salt Lake enters the match at Rio Tinto Stadium, scheduled for 8 p.m., on a four-game losing streak.

"We’ve had a big cushion [in MLS] since probably the first third of the season," Kreis said. "We’re taking full advantage of that right now, in a bad way. This is the first time the guys will clearly have their backs against the wall. ... If we lose or draw, odds are we’ll be done with this tournament. So, there’s only one result that is acceptable."

And, with five home losses this season, including Saturday’s 2-1 defeat to FC Dallas, Rio Tinto hasn’t been an impregnable fortress.

"We know if we don’t win we’re in trouble," RSL midfielder Javier Morales said.

Kreis said little is known about Tauro, competing in its fourth CONCACAF (Confederation of North, Central American and Caribbean Association Football) tournament and first game in the current competition. The team’s best finish was a third place during Group play in 2008-09.

Real, 13-12-3 in all competitions, did not receive any video for scouting and must rely on individual reports. Kreis, however, was more concerned about his focusing for a complete 90 minutes.

"I wouldn’t care who the opponent was, to be honest," Kreis said. "I’ll talk a little about the opponent and I’ll talk a lot about us.

Tauro FC (4-1-1), the most decorated club in Panamanian league history, was founded in 1984 and has won nine championships since the league began in 1988.

Tauro has outscored opponents 9-3 in 2012, with five goals scored on the road. As a red flag for RSL, 44 percent of the Panamanians’ goals have come in the final 15 minutes of games. Edwin Enrique leads with five scores.

RSL’s tendency to push for victories at home has left it open to counterattacks.

"It’s really all or nothing right now with the Champions League," RSL defender Nat Borchers said following Saturday’s loss. "We’ve got to come out strong against the Panamanian team."

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