Real Salt Lake 1 vs Tigres UANL 1 (1-3 Agg.)
March 2, 2016; Sandy, Utah; Rio Tinto Stadium
2015-16 CONCACAF Champions League Quarterfinals
Man of the Match: This could have gone to a number of players, but Juan Manuel Martinez was a one-man highlight reel with his play on the ball. Like when he first arrived in Utah in August, Martinez was pivotal in the lone goal of the series for RSL, but also earned a second-half penalty to set up another scoring chance. According to Opta stats, he had four chances created and in a match when RSL needed goals, that was vital.
Telling Stat: 100%. That was Sunday Stephen Obayan’s passing accuracy. After an up and down preseason as he adjusted to his new club, Sunny was a terror in the midfield, breaking up plays left and right and completing all 30 of his passes. Having that presence alongside Kyle Beckerman in the midfield was crucial in generating the scoring chances RSL sought and holding Tigres at bay.
What You Missed: Martinez, Javier Morales and Demar Phillips all missed the final training session before the match on Wednesday because of illness. That Martinez was as stellar as he was and Morales didn’t seem at all out of sorts was telling of their fortitude. And while Phillips was out of the match, Chris Wingert was solid in his stead.
So What: Nobody is going to pretend to be happy about bowing out of the Champions League by a 3-1 margin against Tigres, but that RSL was every bit their equal for 180 minutes and had them on the ropes up until the final minute of the series was definitely something to build on. Salt Lake won’t face a better team anytime soon and while the Claret-and-Cobalt continues to build fitness and chemistry, things will only get better on the field. The intensity may not be as high in any one of 34 MLS regular season games, but now that RSL has seen what it is capable of, the sky is the limit moving forward.