SAN JOSE, Costa Rica – Deportivo Saprissa believe they know exactly what is necessary to overcome the 2-0 aggregate-goal deficit against Real Salt Lake for a place in the CONCACAF Champions League final on Tuesday night.
“We have 90 minutes and we can’t pressure ourselves,” central defender Oscar Duarte said on Monday. “They’re a very organized team. Having patience is the key against them.”
Saprissa assistant coach Randall Row echoed the call for patience, saying it was a quality his team failed to exhibit in the first leg. The Purple Monster's performance, Row said, left a lot to be desired at Rio Tinto Stadium, rushing passes into congested areas where their attacks died. They rarely got behind the RSL back line, something they want to address at home.
[inline_node:332951]“We have to open up the flanks and manage the rhythm of the game,” winger Jairo Arrieta said. “Their defenders [Real Salt Lake] are strong but not that fast. Their players are tall and we can't send in long balls or we’ll be playing right into their game plan.”
So expect a lot of possession, quick touches and passing combinations from the Costa Rican league leaders. Row said that they will knock the ball around until the spaces open up. And in a rare revelation ahead of a high-profile match-up, Row shed light on what Saprissa are expecting from RSL.
“We feel that they are going to come out in the first minutes and attack us,” Row said. “I think they come out attacking and try to get the goal that will put them at ease.”
[inline_node:332953]“It’d be great if they try to attack and go forward,” Arrieta said. “We know they manage their lines well and tactically they’re really compact. Preferably I hope they come out to chase a goal so we can take advantage of the spaces they will give us.”
From a defensive standpoint, the Saprissa players say they will concentrate on avoiding set pieces around their penalty area because of the danger that RSL poses on dead ball situations, particularly from Javier Morales and Álvaro Saborío.
But Morales and Saborío are not the player goalkeeper Victor Bolivar is most worried about. That distinction belongs to RSL captain Kyle Beckerman.
“Their Latin players make the difference for them, but we have to keep our eyes on Beckerman, who delivers a good long ball,” Bolivar said. “We need to mark him tightly because he sends a good ball forward. He’s smart and he’ll put the ball over our defenders’ head. I’ll need to come out a lot to cut out service coming from him.”
The Saprissa squad has been gathered in the Hotel Casa Conde in downtown San Jose since Sunday, a practice they only invoke for important home games, according to club officials.
The players, who addressed the media on Monday were unabashed about their confidence in the home-field advantage presented by the Ricardo Saprissa Stadium, where there is a sign that reads: “There are no hand-outs as long as the Monster is alive.” It’s the club’s promise to Real Salt Lake on Tuesday.
“The fact is that this team is used to being more aggressive when it finds itself in difficult circumstances,” Row said. “We’re going to come out to the death for this result.”
SAPRISSA PROBABLE STARTING XI (4-2-3-1): #1 Victor Bolivar (goalkeeper) – #16 Gabriel Badilla (left back), #14 Roberto Wong (center back), #31 Oscar Duarte (center back), #33 Luis Cordero (right back) – #20 David Guzman (holding mid), #15 Saul Phillip Fernandez (holding mid) – #19 Jairo Arrieta (left wing), #8 Walter Centeno (playmaker), #21 Armando Alonso (right wing) – #28 Josue Martinez (center forward)
Suspended: Douglas Sequeira (holding midfielder), Jose Mena (center back), Ricardo Blanco (right back)
Injured: Maykol Ortiz (creative midfielder)