LEHI, Utah – Beware of the Deportivo Saprissa attack.
That’s the message Real Salt Lake coaches and players are sending ahead of the first leg CONCACAF Champions League semifinal match on Tuesday at Rio Tinto Stadium, where it’s the MLS club that is expected to be chasing for goals (10 pm ET, Fox Soccer Channel).
“Very technical, technically gifted and good attacking players,” RSL manager Jason Kreis said on Sunday in reference to Saprissa’s four most advanced players. “They’re looking to get at things [on the counter] pretty darn quickly. Those are things we are going to be mindful of.”
“We’ve drawn our conclusions from Saprissa’s matches against Olimpia,” reigning MLS Defender of the Year Jamison Olave said. “They have good players and players who like to control the ball, and they have a good and quick forward [in Armando Alonso].”
[inline_node:329534]Real Salt Lake still have more video work they will be doing ahead of Tuesday’s match, but they have already begun to entertain a few tactical tweaks in Sunday’s practice at Xango Field.
“We were doing some shape things today of what we expect for them,” RSL midfielder Will Johnson said. “We expect a little bit of high pressure. They’ll play with a point man and two wingers as they did in their last series.”
Kreis also referenced the high pressure he expects from Saprissa.
“They’re a team that in the first two games of this [knockout] round high pressed in the beginning of both matches, home and away,” the RSL manager said. “We should probably expect them to come out with a positive mentality.”
But how much will Saprissa be able to press the issue after what will amount to two days of travel to get to Rio Tinto Stadium?
The Costa Rican side departed their home base on Saturday afternoon to Guatemala before then embarking on another flight to Mexico that same night. After sleeping in Mexico on Saturday, they left on Sunday afternoon on a flight which arrived at 6:52 pm local time into Salt Lake City.
It’s a travel schedule that the “Purple Monster” will hope does not cancel out the full week of rest they gained by postponing their weekend domestic league match against Pérez Zeledón to March 23.
“It’s important for us to know that we have a whole week to prepare for the game, and to absorb the manager’s plan and also rest a bit,” forward Jairo Arrieta told Costa Rican daily La Nación.
Reporters from the Central American country on hand for Real Salt Lake practice on Sunday said that the cold could prove to have the biggest impact on Saprissa despite the fact that the club has downplayed the weather factor all week. Temperatures reached the high 70s in Costa Rica this week while game-time temperature at Rio Tinto Stadium is expected to be in the high 40s.
“You never know until the game,” Johnson said. “Maybe they’re going to come in here and play for the 0-0 tie and put 10 guys behind the ball. We have to be prepared for multiple scenarios.”