The only real negative to Real Salt Lake’s passage into the CONCACAF Champions League final?
It’s back to the drawing board to scout an opponent who is trying to keep them from reaching the FIFA Club World Cup, scheduled to be held in Japan in December.
That road block comes in the form of the Mexican side Monterrey, who downed Cruz Azul in the CCL semifinals and present a unique challenge for RSL head coach Jason Kreis and his staff.
“I’ve done very little scouting,” Kreis said. “The only game I saw was against Cruz Azul, the first leg. I wasn’t able to watch the second, so there is still a lot to be learned.”
Real Salt Lake will open the series at Estadio Tecnológico on April 20 before wrapping the series on April 27 at Rio Tinto Stadium.
Despite his unfamiliarity with Monterrey, Kreis said he’s eager to face a new team instead of Cruz Azul, who RSL met in the CCL group stage and toppled during the finale of Group A last fall at Rio Tinto Stadium.
“I’m actually very pleased that we get to have a brand new challenge, and a brand new team in front of us in the way of us making it to Japan,” Kreis said. “I’m up for it.”
RSL failed to post a win in Mexico during group play (they famously lost to Cruz Azul 5-4), and most recently lost the series finale against Saprissa in Costa Rica on Tuesday. They beat Árabe Unido 3-2 in Panama during the group stage.
“When we go down there it’s going to be a hostile environment, which we expect,” goalkeeper Nick Rimando told ESPN700 Sports Radio in Salt Lake City. “When you play in tournaments like this and go outside of your country, you are going to get crazy fans and a crazy environment.
"We understand that. We’ve gone to numerous places already in this tournament and we’ve seen the good places and the bad places, so I think we’re prepared.”
Added Kreis, “I think it’s another feather in our cap that we’ve made it to the finals. But now the opportunity in front of us is just massive, and I’m looking very much forward to it.”