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After brawl, RSL returns home to prepare for Champions League semifinals

Published March 9, 2011 11:40 pm

Preseason • Team now home preparing for Champions League semifinals next week.
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2011, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

It's hard to imagine Real Salt Lake won't be ready for a tough and physical game against Costa Rica's Saprissa in the semifinals of the CONCACAF Champions League next week, after what happened in a practice game against Sporting Kansas City on Tuesday night.

The exhibition in Arizona was abandoned in the late stages, after a hard tackle by K.C.'s Roger Espinoza on RSL's Javier Morales triggered a bench-clearing brawl and hard feelings between the teams. Coach Jason Kreis pulled his team off the field at that point, ending the game in a 2-2 draw.

"Let's face it, we have something a week away … that's much, much, much more important than a preseason match against Kansas City," Kreis told ESPN 700 Radio.

RSL is home now and preparing for that momentous event — its meeting with Saprissa in the first leg of the two-game Champions League semifinal series Tuesday night at Rio Tinto Stadium.

Everybody is expected to be available for RSL, Kreis said, because nobody was seriously hurt during the game or the melee — though several players suffered lower-leg bruises and minor ankle injuries "because of the kinds of tackles we were facing" during the game.

Kreis said he and general manager Garth Lagerwey had debated pulling their team off the field earlier in the game because of the increasingly rough play, and regretted not doing so.

Lagerwey did not return calls Wednesday.

Later, several RSL players took to Twitter to vent their frustrations with the referee and anger toward Sporting K.C.

"I am very, very angry tonight," defender Jamison Olave tweeted. "The referee was terrible."

Olave had taken down Espinoza in the box earlier in the game, leading to a Kei Kamara penalty kick that gave Sporting K.C. its first goal after Alvaro Saborio and Fabian Espindola had scored for RSL.

Omar Bravo then scored the other K.C. goal, before the unruly finish.

"Heard the tackle" on Morales "back from my goal after numerous bad tackles not called," goalkeeper Nick Rimando wrote on Twitter. Midfielder Andy Williams tweeted that he was putting somebody "on my wanted list," and that he planned to circle the dates for the regular-season meetings with Sporting K.C. The teams will not meet in the Major League Soccer regular season until Aug. 3 in Kansas City. They meet again Sept. 17 at Rio Tinto Stadium.

They did, however, play an exhibition rematch with reserve lineups Wednesday. Paulo Junior scored for RSL to give it a 1-0 victory.

mcl@sltrib.com