SANDY, Utah – Back in 2006, no one would have thought that in a little more than five years, Real Salt Lake would have an MLS Cup trophy, a brand-new stadium and a place in the CONCACAF Champions League semifinals.
That’s what former RSL player Douglas Sequeira (above, right) pondered as he walked the Rio Tinto Stadium field with his Deportivo Saprissa teammates just hours before the two teams face off in the first leg of the CCL semis on Tuesday.
“It was a beautiful experience to play with this team,” Sequeira told MLSsoccer.com. “Coming back now is really nice for me and to see the new stadium, very beautiful. We hope to put on a good show today.”
The Costa Rican defensive midfielder, who represented RSL at the 2006 World Cup with Costa Rica, was a teammate of Andy Williams and current manager Jason Kreis.
“He’s a very intelligent coach,” Sequeira said of Kreis. “He was a very important player in the league and now Real Salt Lake has a strong team. They have a solid defense and players who are very important in midfield. Then, up top, they have [Alvaro Saborio], whom I know and he’s a great player. You can't give him time to think or he'll score.
“They’ve played great and they know each other very well. It’s not going to be easy.”
[inline_node:329831] The 33-year-old Sequeira, who was released by RSL following the 2006 season, was not bashful about the strengths of his team, highlighting Saprissa's technical ability and their speed up top.
“We’re coming to play an intelligent game,” he said. “We hope to play a game just like we did in Honduras. We’re not here for a tie because when you’re thinking about a tie, we could lose. We want to try to get a positive result, respecting Real Salt Lake.”
Saprissa manager, Mexican Juan Manuel Álvarez, was a bit more ambitious about how "The Purple Monster” were planning to approach the game.
“Our team always pushes the game and we’re going to try to attack from the start because we’re interested in winning the game here,” the 62-year-old Álvarez said. “We will be very disciplined just like Real Salt Lake will be. … As long as we don’t lose, it’s a good result, since we’re the away team.”
[inline_node:330742]Álvarez was recently hired in November of last year to replace ex-MLS player Roy Myers at the helm of Costa Rica’s biggest club. He’s a former manager of Mexican sides Puebla, Veracruz and Toluca in the late 1990s and most recently served as VP at Jaguares in Chiapas.
In speaking about RSL, Álvarez made note of the MLS club’s overall team balance and possession game. He also pointed out the players that he called the standouts in Claret-and-Cobalt: Javier Morales, Fabian Espindola and former Saprissa forward Saborío.
“As long as there are no goals, both will play very cautious,” Álvarez said. “If there’s a goal on either side, the game will have to be managed differently.”