SANDY, Utah -- Real Salt Lake had a decisive victory over Saprissa in front of a home crowd of 16,888 at Rio Tinto Stadium on Tuesday. Smiles seemed to abound throughout the RSL locker room after the match.
“It was good to get the multiple-goal win,” said head coach Jason Kreis of the 2-0 victory. “It was very important to us to keep the shutout.”
Midfielder Will Johnson added, “If you had given us that at the beginning of the game, we would have been extremely pleased with it. I think everyone feels happy with that at the end of the game.”
However, the nagging question is whether or not the two-goal advantage will hold up in the aggregate-goals format. Although the MLS side did their part at home, the April 5 return match in Costa Rica will be a much less hospitable environment for RSL.
[inline_node:330805]A key moment occurred early on in the match that could end up proving to be critical in the series. Five minutes in, Nat Borchers appeared to score the initial goal of the match only to have it disallowed. The controversial call didn’t sit well with the RSL defender.
“I got free of my marker and it was a great ball in from [Fabian Espindola]," explained Borchers. "I put it away and went to celebrate and looked around and the referee had called a foul. He told me that I had pushed off and I was surprised to see that.
“I had a good conversation with Garth [Lagerwey], our GM, and we pretty much agreed that [the call] was pretty unfair, given the fact that I never score," added Borchers. "But those things happen.”
The match was as physical an affair as any, with five cautions issued to Saprissa on the night. The Costa Rican team committed 20 fouls, while the whistle was blown against RSL nine times.
Of those five yellows issued to "The Purple Monster," three were to players that entered the match carrying a caution from their quarterfinals against Olimpia. Because of this, Saprissa will be without the services of defenders Jose Mena and Ricardo Blanco as well as holding midfielder Douglas Sequeira in the second leg against RSL.
Kreis expects Saprissa to use more of the same physical play in the next leg to slow down his team.
“I think we’re going to see more and more of it," he said. "It can be frustrating [for RSL’s opponent] to chase the ball around for long stretches of time.”
However, the RSL boss was happy with the way that his team responded.
“What I am very pleased with is our reactions tonight. … Some of the fouls that happened out there away from the ball could have very easily seen reactions from our players that could have picked up yellow cards for retaliation," Kreis said.
Despite the feelings of frustration from the disallowed goal and the physical nature of the play on the field, the question still remains as to whether or not a two-goal advantage is enough.
“We hope that what happened against Cruz Azul [in Mexico City in the Group Stage] was an anomaly,” said Borchers, “but we have to make sure that we don’t get scored on three times in 15 minutes.”
However, Johnson preferred to take a more positive outlook on the situation, indicating that the away goal advantage would figure in their favor should they manage to score at Ricardo Saprissa Stadium.
“An early goal from us means they’ve got to score four, and that’s a huge thing," said Johnson.