Tuesday, April 26, 2011

On tap: Real Salt Lake v Monterrey

So here we are. Even as CONCACAF nears its biggest club game of the year, Real Salt Lake v Monterrey for the Champions League final on Wednesday night, UEFA has to go and steal all the thunder with some kind of Real Madrid-Barcelona match. Are those Spanish teams or something?

This game (our game, that being RSL-Monterrey) is being billed by multiple outlets as the biggest game in league history. Some find a bone to pick with the notion, but I tend to agree. No, it's not the first time an MLS team has been to this competition's finale. And no, RSL wouldn't be the league's first winner either. But consider this: until 2008, qualifiers had to win a measly three games for the title. During D.C.'s run in 1998, United played (and beat) something called Joe Public FC a modest 8-0. And in both 1998 and 2000, not only did L.A. and D.C. benefit from the truncated schedule, both teams hosted the entire final tournament.

Things finally changed for the better in 2008. CONCACAF finally decided to mimic UEFA's model, a fuller schedule but a more legitimate determinate for a title winner. It's an arduous task to win it all now, but it provides a more tangible sense of accomplishment instead of having the party thrown in your own backyard and only inviting a few weak-limbed guests with the intention of pummeling them later. As compared with LA and DC's runs, which look puny by comparison, RSL has had to slog through six group matches (winning four), along with home-and-away legs against Columbus Crew, Saprissa and now Monterrey. All told, RSL will play 12 games in the competition, fully three times the previous total. Don't mean to bag too much on Galaxy and United supporters, but yeah, Salt Lake has you guys here.

With two away goals, aggregate even and the second leg in the friendly confines of Rio Tinto, it would take something unexpected for the royals to mess this up, but stranger things have happened. My prediction? 1-1 draw. Salt Lake bunkers a little too much in the first half and allows one to slip in before regrouping and bagging a final winner from Javier Morales with 10 minutes left to win it all. Dramatic, yeah? I should write screenplays.

Anyway, before I blather on too much longer, here's what you guys came for. Also, keep it tuned here for some post-match analysis. I will either be patting Jason Kreis on the back or pointing a damning finger at his final stumble. Either way, it'll be a blast.

Your first leg roundup
Goal's tactical takedown
RSL's search for respect coming to a head
Weather worries on other foot now
Fox Soccer Channel has nothing to worry about
Is this the biggest sports event in Utah history?

So this is pretty cool.

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