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RSL just wants a win in home leg of Champions League semifinals
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2011, and information in the article may be outdated.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.

Lehi • It's the best team in Major League Soccer when playing at home, and has proved time and again that it's capable of some devastating goal-scoring performances when it has the thin mountain air and thousands of screaming fans at its back.

But that doesn't mean Real Salt Lake is aiming for a blowout against Saprissa in the first leg of their CONCACAF Champions League semifinal series at Rio Tinto Stadium on Tuesday night, even though forward Alvaro Saborio acknowledged that one would be nice.

"That would be a mistake," coach Jason Kreis said. "I don't think you can say that you want more than just" a victory.

Simply winning will be crucial enough, knowing that the two-game series will be determined by combined goals, and RSL still must play the second leg of the two-game series at Estadio Ricardo Saprissa in San Jose on April 5.

Yet that's also why a landslide win would be so valuable for RSL, making it harder for Saprissa to overturn the result in the second leg.

And RSL is no stranger to home blowouts.

The team has not lost at home in nearly two years in all competitions, and led its league by far last year with a 31-7 goal differential at home. It won seven of its 15 league games at home by multiple goals — including four by three or more.

Still, nobody wants to get ahead of themselves.

"I just think it's important that you've got to win," midfielder Will Johnson said. "You've got to take it 15 minutes at a time, almost. We have enough guys that know how to play these kinds of games. We can't say, 'OK, our game plan is to try to win 5-0.' It's just not realistic. Obviously, we have to take what the game gives us and go from there. But most important is just to win the game."

And you'd have to say the second-most important thing is keeping a shutout — because the team with more away goals will advance, if the series is tied on aggregate after both games.

"It's important for us to come out aggressive," defender Nat Borchers said. "It's important for us to get that first goal. If they score against us at home … obviously, the goals are weighted, so we're going to make sure that doesn't happen."

Have to like their chances, too. RSL allowed a league-record 20 goals in 30 games last year, winning eight of its nine home shutouts. It beat the Columbus Crew 4-1 in the second leg of its Champions League quarterfinal series.

But Kreis warns that the return leg in Costa Rica will be a huge challenge for RSL, regardless of how the home leg turns out. For one thing, Saprissa is in midseason form, giving it an advantage that has been only slightly mitigated by the two quarterfinal games RSL has played so far.

"I think it's going to be a difficult situation, no matter what," Kreis said. "I don't think that there's any chance that we're going to blow them out here, so I think that we need to be expecting that this is two-leg series."

mcl@sltrib.com

Deportivo Saprissa at RSL

P Champions League semifinals at Rio Tinto Stadium.

When • Tuesday, 8 p.m.

TV • Fox Soccer Channel, Galavision

But it wouldn't mind a cushion heading to return leg at Saprissa.
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