Real Salt Lake continued to make history for both itself and Major League Soccer Tuesday night in Costa Rica, as its 1-2 defeat to Deportivo Saprissa was enough to lift the Utah side to a 3-2 aggregate series win in the CONCACAF Champions League Semifinals. After becoming the first MLS team to win its CCL Group Stage and compete in the tournament’s semifinals, Real Salt Lake will now have the honor of representing North American soccer’s top tier in the CCL Finals against the winner of the all-Mexico series pitting Cruz Azul against Monterrey.
In front of an intimidating setting of more than 24,000 fans packed into the Estadio Ricardo Saprissa, Real Salt Lake weathered the expected first half storm from Saprissa, becoming more comfortable as the half progressed and even having the better of the play across the final 15 minutes. However, RSL relaxed out of the gates in the second half, allowing Saprissa’s Luis Diego Cordero time and space from 30 yards out to fire a rocket that beat RSL netminder Nick Rimando into the upper right corner of goal for the game’s opening tally less than a minute into the second stanza.
However, Real Salt Lake would find the crucial away goal it needed to wrestle control of the series back just past the hour mark when DF Jamison Olave acrobatically volleyed home a loose ball around the penalty spot to tie the match 1-1 and put the visitors up 3-1 on aggregate at the time. A late-match penalty kick was converted by Saprissa substitute Alonso Solis in the 87th minute, but the “Purple Monster” would need two more scores in quick order thanks to RSL’s away goal in the bank, and the Utahans would hold firm from there on out to secure MLS’ first spot in a regional club championship since the L.A. Galaxy won the then-CONCACAF Champions Cup back in 2000.