RSL ready for another round of Champions League
Officially, it took Real Salt Lake coach Jason Kreis about 10 minutes to inform the media following Friday's victory against Vancouver that Champions League was on his mind.
Truthfully, the official change in focus started at the final whistle.
"I'm ready," said Kreis about RSL's CONCACAF Champions League opener Tuesday against C.S. Herediano in Costa Rica. "I'm ready right now to go home and scout Herediano and do everything we can so that we are very properly prepared. Our players are right now automatically starting their [regeneration] process and preparing their bodies for Tuesday. This is a big, big deal to our club, a big, big deal to our fans and a huge deal to everybody in the locker room."
There is plenty of reason for Kreis and his players and staff to be pumped for the game and the competition. Despite the bitter conclusion the RSL's only other Champions League tournament run, the team made history. And not only for the club.
RSL became the first Major League Soccer team to ever reach the CONCACAF Champions League Final as well as becoming the first American club ever to crack the Top 25 World Rankings at WorldClubRankings.com.
A victory away from qualifying for the Club World Cup in Japan, RSL lost 1-0 to Monterrey on April 27, 2011, at Rio Tinto Stadium giving Monterrey a 3-2 aggregate victory and the championship.
RSL wants more, starting with Herediano, a highly decorated team located near the Costa Rican capitol of San Jose. Instead of playing at the club's 15,000-seat stadium, the game is set for the recently constructed 35,000-seat Estadio Nacional de Costa Rica.
"We're coming off a couple good results here," RSL defender Nat Borchers said. "I think we all know it's tough though; it's not going to be an easy place to play. The atmosphere is going to be very negative toward us. But it's going to be fun, a great challenge. We're ready to get back into CONCACAF."
Herediano is led by 32-year-old forward Victor NuÃ±ez, a teammate of RSL forward Alvaro Saborio on Costa Rica's 2006 World Cup team. NuÃ±ez scored 18 goals in 2011 and 2012 league contests.
Saborio leads RSL with 13 goals in 2012.
This is Herediano's third try in the modern Champions League format, including 2009-10 where it didn't make it out of the Group Stage.
In May, Herediano ended a 19-year championship drought to win it's league tournament.
The last time RSL played a CONCACAF match in Costa Rica, it lost 2-1 to Saprissa in April of 2011. However, because Real defeated Saprissa 2-0 in Rio Tinto Stadium, RSL advanced thanks to a 3-2 aggregate score.
Kreis believes RSL is ready, despite the quick turnaround from Friday's MLS game to Tuesday.
"It's just going to be really important what [RSL's players] do starting right now," Kreis said Friday. "What they are putting in their body? Are they taking their ice baths? Are they getting all of their treatments they need to? Are they going to get some rest tonight and rest tomorrow?
"Our ownership has stepped up and gotten us a chartered flight, which is just huge in my opinion. Everybody should be nice and comfortable for the long flight to Costa Rica and get some more rest to put in a light training session on Monday and be fully fit and ready and focused for Tuesday."
Real Salt Lake at C.S. Herediano
P Tuesday in the Estadio Nacional de Costa Rica, San Jose, Costa Rica.
Kickoff • 8 p.m. (MDT)
TV • Fox Soccer Channel
Radio • AM700
All-time series • First meeting
About Herediano • Since winning its league championship in May, Herediano has undergone a significant amount of turnover, including the loss of second-leading goalscorer Jorge Barbosa in the summer transfer window.... The club qualified for the old CONCACAF Champions Cup six times, advancing as far as the semifinals in 1989....Formed in 1921, the team has 22 league championships, the last coming after a 19-year drought.
About RSL • Forward Alvaro Saborio scored the first goal in Estadio Nacional de Costa Rica history during its inaugural match in March 2011....Saborio, who has 13 goals in 2012, scored twice in RSL's 2-1 victory Friday against Vancouver.... Coach Jason Kreis chose to rest banged up defender Jamison Olave on Friday in preparation for Tuesday's CCL match. Starters Ned Grabavoy and Chris Wingert also played limited minutes Friday.