Nat Borchers walked away thinking he had a yellow card. Then he looked up at the Jumbotron and saw red.
The RSL defender was hit with a straight red card in the 58th minute of the CONCACAF Champions League opener against C.S. Herediano in San Jose, Costa Rica, leaving the visitors shorthanded after seizing momentum early in the second half. Herediano’s 14th-minute goal broke the tie early, and the Costa Rican titlist held on for a 1-0 victory.
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Borchers’ ejection came on a two-footed challenge on a 50-50 ball, the worst in a series of questionable calls at Estadio Nacional.
"I took a bad touch, hit him hard on the tackle," Borchers told ESPN 700. "I don’t know. Maybe in another place, another time, I’d say yellow card if anything. It’s really, really harsh to get sent off for that."
Herediano was physical early as well but officials hit RSL harder, doling out a yellow card against Alvaro Saborio in the seventh minute and another against Kyle Beckerman in the 43rd.
Star defender Jamison Olave left with an undetermined injury around the back of his knee shortly after RSL was reduced to 10 men, but Salt Lake — which subbed in two more players after Olave’s departure — held Herediano scoreless for the remainder of the game.
Elias Aguilar, who was on the other end of Borchers’ collision, scored the only goal of the game off a beautiful back-footed pass from Yendrick Ruiz, a left-footed strike that found the far post.
It was the only blemish on the night for Nick Rimando, who played an otherwise superlative game with five first-half saves. The RSL defense shut down Herediano after halftime, allowing no shots.
"I’m OK with this," head coach Jason Kreis told ESPN 700. "To play a man down in the final 30 minutes, you have to be OK with going down a goal in what will turn out to be a home-and-home series."
Real struggled to convert numerous chances, including a 29th-minute chip by Fabian Espindola that bounced about six inches wide and Saborio’s shot off the crossbar in the 58th minute. The team will need at least seven points in its three remaining CONCACAF Group Stage matches to advance, starting with an Aug. 21 home showdown against Tauro FC.
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