CONCACAF Champions League: Real Salt Lake Loses to Saprissa but Moves to Finals

Matt JonesAnalyst IApril 6, 2011

Real Salt Lake becomes the first MLS team to advance to the CONCACAF finals
Real Salt Lake becomes the first MLS team to advance to the CONCACAF finalsEzra Shaw/Getty Images

Real Salt Lake may have lost the battle, but they won the war.

In what was one of the biggest soccer matches in the history of soccer in the United States, Real Salt Lake lost 2-1 to the home club, Deportivo Saprissa, in San Juan, Costa Rica Tuesday night.

Real Salt Lake could not have been happier with the loss because it allows them to move on to the CONCACAF Champions League finals where they will face the winner of the series between Mexican clubs Monterrey and Cruz Azul later this month.

For the casual soccer fan, this score does not make sense. How does a team lose a game in a tournament and move on?

The games are played on a home and home basis and the total number of goals from both games are tallied to determine the winner.

Real Salt Lake won the game at home in Utah by a score of 2-0. That meant that Saprissa would have had to win by at least three goals to make up the difference. The aggregate score for both matches was 3-2 for Real Salt Lake which helped them become the first Major League Soccer team to reach the finals.

The game, which was scoreless at the half, ended in a 2-1 result for the home team. The scoring began just after halftime when Saprissa midfielder Luis Cordero took a high shot from the top of the box that raced past Real Salt Lake goalkeeper Nick Rimando and found the back of the net.

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Following the goal, the full house of fans in the stadium known as the "Monster's Cave" woke up and began chanting and singing in hopes that their team could tie the aggregate score.

The excitement did not last long as Real Salt Lake defender Jamison Olave put home an amazing goal to tie the score on the night 1-1. His goal came on a rebound of a set piece from the corner that was served in by Javier Morales and headed toward goal by fellow defender Nat Borchers. Olave got on the end of the rebound and hooked it high into the goal.

Late in the match, Alonso Solis hit a penalty kick goal for Saprissa following a foul committed in the box by Ned Grabavoy to make the score 2-1 on the night.

Real Salt Lake defended well the rest of the way and earned the right to move on to the final set of games by an aggregate score of 3-2.

Prior to the game, Real Salt Lake had the support of many Major League Soccer players and fans who have never seen a club team from the United States make it to the finals.

A former MLS player posted on his Twitter account, "Today I woke up a Real Salt Lake fan...Today they will represent all of us MLS contingent and move onto the CCL final."

New York Red Bull player Dwayne DeRosario also tweeted, "Wishing Real Salt Lake all the best in their decisive second-leg showdown against Deportivo Saprissa."

CONCACAF, which stands for Confederation of North, Central American and Caribbean Association Football, is a tournament that is held yearly with the tournament champion moving on to play in the FIFA Club World Cup that will be held in Japan later this year.

Club teams such as Manchester United, Barcelona and Boca Juniors are teams that have been in the seven-team FIFA tournament in the past.

The first leg of the finals will be held in Mexico at the home of either Monterrey or Cruz Azul. The second and deciding leg will be held at Rio Tinto Stadium in Sandy, Utah on April 26, 2011.