By: Jae Groll
It was a windy night in front of a boisterous crowd at the Estadio Ricardo Saprissa Amyá in San José. Known as the “Monster’s Cave”, the stadium is one of the most difficult places for visiting teams to earn a result in all of CONCACAF.
RSL were to show the world just how physical an American side can be when needs be committing 24 fouls to secure their advancement.
Saprissa started the game like a team that needed to score goals and score them fast. They dominated the first 15 minutes of play. They pressed RSL high up the pitch and kept the ball on the RSL side but could not create any clear cut chances for their efforts.
RSL was undaunted. They weathered the early storm and managed to settle things down and start controlling the ball.
The first half was marked by several half-chances but the one true chance for a goal came on 27′ when Kyle Beckerman found the ball on his feet at the penalty spot beating the offside. His shot was hit straight at Saprissa keeper Victor Bolivar who popped it over the bar.
With neither side able to find the back of the net in the first half RSL no doubt liked their chances to advance in the competition.
The second half started with a bang when on 46′ Saprissa midfielder Louis Diego Cordero lashed out with with a rocket from 20′ straight away that ripped into the top right corner of the goal leaving Nick Rimando helpless.
The home side surged with confidence after the goal realizing that they had a real chance to level things up and send the game into overtime.
It was not to be.
RSL ended most of the speculation about which team would advance to the final when on 61′ RLS defensive stalwart Jamison Olave scored the decider. Olave struck a right footed volley off a scrambled corner kick from 6′ out. He hit so hard it zipped inches past the keeper before Bolivar could even react.
A glimmer of hope for the home side sparkled when Ned Grabavoy fouled Allen Aleman in the box gifting Saprissa a penalty kick on 87′. Rimando guessed right but Alonso Solis‘ shot was perfectly placed in the bottom right corner to give the Purple Monster some hope at a grand finale.
RSL however refused to be denied, they dug in to hold off the Costa Rican giants for the rest of the game and wrap up the road win. RSL advance to the final and face the winner of the Mexican stand off between Monterrey and Cruz Azul. That tie will finish tomorrow evening with Monterrey holding a 2-1 aggregate advantage as they travel to Cruz Azul for the 2nd leg. The first game of the CCL final will be played on April 19th in Mexico regardless of which team wins the Mexican tie.
Player of the Game: Jamison Olave not only played his usual “Genius mixed with a dose of Chuck Norris” defensive game, but his powerful volley basically iced the tie for Real Salt Lake.
It goes with the turf: The artificial surface at the Estadio Ricardo Saprissa Amyá usually poses a problem for visiting sides not used to playing on turf. Many of the players of RSL however have experience playing just such a surface as their old home gounds at the University of Utah’s Rice Eccles Stadium boasts the same sport turf.