LEHI, Utah – If Real Salt Lake are to slow down the Monterrey attack on Wednesday night, their fullbacks may prove to be the difference.
The ability of Chris Wingert and Robbie Russell to handle the numerous runs made by the Rayados attackers could prove to be pivotal in deciding which team ultimately hoists the Champions League trophy at Rio Tinto Stadium (10 pm ET, FOX Soccer, TeleFutura).
“They just do such a good job of coming at you with a lot of numbers and guys running through all over,” said veteran left back Wingert.
In the first leg, both of the Monterrey goals started from wide positions. The first came on RSL’s left side as Monterrey drew Wingert out wide near the touchline, then slotted a ball into the channel between Wingert and center back Nat Borchers, causing Salt Lake all kinds of havoc inside the area. The action ultimately lead to a goal by Aldo de Nigris.
[inline_node:329294]“I think that their game plan is to get into those spaces between the backs,” explained Russell, the probable starter at right back, "and they’re very good at it.”
On the second goal, the Monterrey attacker didn’t take as wide a position, but pushed past Russell on RSL’s right side and delivered a cross just prior to reaching the end line that ended up as a penalty after a Jamison Olave handball. The PK, of course, was converted by Humberto Suazo.
“We were letting them get in between us a little bit,” admitted Wingert. “We want to do a better job of forcing the ball outside when we can, and keeping them away from our goal.”
However, Wingert indicated that it won’t be an easy task.
“They come at you with a lot of numbers, and so there are going to be times when they probably will have the ball in our end, and we’ll defend like hell.”
“We watched the tape and talked about ways to stop them,” said Russell, “so as long as we execute those ideas, maybe we can limit some of those chances.”
However, Wingert indicated that preparing for them is one thing, but reacting in the moment may be yet another.
“I think a lot of it is within the game decisions and split-second choices that you have to make,” Wingert said. “And when you make that decision, go 100 percent with it and hope it turns out in your favor.”
Both fullbacks were in agreement about one key to defending against the potent Monterrey attack.
“The biggest key is early communication,” offered Wingert, “and then following runners. And if they do get in behind us, to have a good reaction and try to get there and close it down as quickly as possible.”