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RSL primes attack for second leg
by Ridge Mahoney, February 28th, 2011 11:09PM

TAGS:  columbus crew, concacaf champions league, mls, real salt lake


[CONCACAF CHAMPIONS LEAGUE] In assembling Real Salt Lake’s roster, general manager Garth Lagerwey admits he and head coach Jason Kreis are keenly aware of managing the extra games and scheduling inconveniences caused by the Concacaf Champions League.

“It’s tough, and there are no good answers,” says Lagerwey of the CCL, which necessitated it playing Columbus last week and again Tuesday in the quarterfinals (10 p.m. ET, Fox Soccer Channel). “It’s hard on your whole roster and we owe it to ourselves and our fans to do whatever we can to try and succeed.”

The first game, played in mid-20s temperatures on an icy field, left the teams tied 0-0 heading into the second leg  with more than two weeks to go before they open the MLS regular season March 19. Both teams
finished first in the group phase played last fall, and the winner will be the first MLS team to reach the CCL semifinals.

“We want to be the first MLS club to win the Concacaf Champions League and represent the league at the finals,” says Lagerwey of the 2011 FIFA Club World Cup to be staged next December in Japan. “How incredible would that be?”

After the teams combined for exactly one shot on goal, there will be changes up front for the second game, which features the return of Crew forward Jeff Cunningham, who scored 19 goals in 38 games for RSL during the 2006 and 2007 seasons.

“At this point, everybody is training to get their position and we’re not at our best at the moment, but neither is Salt Lake,” said Cunningham, who came on as a sub in the 75th minute of the first game and might replace the suspended Emilio Renteria in the starting lineup. “At this point, it’s just going to be the team that desires the result more, because I’m sure they’re not where they want to be physically. It will come down to the tactical preparation and desire.”

RSL’s preparation is hampered by the absences of centerback Nat Borchers and right back Tony Beltran; Borchers drew a straight red card for jousting with Renteria and Beltran incurred a second caution eight minutes into the second half.

Chris Schuler -- a standout last year as a fill-in centerback -- is recovering from a broken foot, which probably opens up a start for Raushawn McKenzie. Robbie Russell is likely to take over for Beltran at right back.

Midfielders Collen Warner and Jean Alexandre sat out the first leg with suspensions for the accumulation of yellow cards carried over from the group stage and are available for this match.

Alvaro Saborio scored six goals and was credited with two assists in five Concacaf Champions League matches in the group phase last year, in which RSL played Arabe Unido of Panama and Cruz Azul of Mexico, along with MLS foe Toronto FC.

Young Brazilian Paulo Junior scored three goals – two of them in the home leg against Cruz Azul – in only 94 minutes of CCL play, which helped persuade RSL to extend his loan deal from NASL club Miami FC (now known as the Ft. Lauderdale Strikers).

RSL officials are hoping for a crowd of about 10,000, which would more than double the 4,665 who attended the first game at Columbus Crew Stadium. The match is part of RSL’s 20-game season-ticket package and no rain is in the forecast, which projects temperatures near freezing during the night.

If the teams are tied at the end of regulation, Columbus advances on away goals unless neither team scores. In the case of another 0-0 tie, 30 minutes of overtime will be played, with penalty kicks to follow if the teams end overtime tied. Away goals as a tiebreaker apply only to such goals scored in regulation.

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