Defending MLS champions Real Salt Lake are in Mexico City tonight for a CONCACAF Champions League game against Cruz Azul.
When the final whistle blows, they’ll pack up and hop a plane to Canada for Saturday’s MLS tilt against Toronto FC.
It’s a tough stretch (they also host rising MLS contenders New York the following Saturday), and tonight, in the smog and altitude of Mexico City, the odds are stacked against them, monumentally.
As Tony Jones of the Salt Lake Tribune points out, the U.S. national team is 0-23-1** on Mexican soil, and MLS teams are 0-19-2.
That’s a combined record of futility of 0-42-3 for Gringo outfits South of the Border.
We wouldn’t lay money for RSL to break the skein tonight, but then again, we said the same thing about Columbus last night, and a plucky mix of starters and reserves very nearly got the job done.
There are other reasons to think RSL could make history, according to James Edward of the Deseret News:
“Scattered thunderstorms are in the forecast throughout the day in Mexico City, and a slippery surface may hinder Cruz Azul’s ability to show off its tremendous technical ability. Rain may also clear up Mexico City’s notorious pollution.
“Altitude shouldn’t be a big issue, either, at least compared to other MLS teams. Estadio Azul is an estimated 7,400 feet above sea level, but Real Salt Lake does most of its training at 4,500 feet at Xango Field in Lehi.”
Coach Jason Kreis has also intimated that he may go for it down there, and not rest the bulk of his starters.
So who knows—it could happen.
Seattle Sounders FC are also in CCL action tonight, hosting Mexican side Monterrey at Qwest Field.
Fox Soccer Channel, God bless ’em, has both games—Cruz Azul-RSL at 8:00 p.m. EST, and Seattle-Monterrey at 10:00.
**That one tie—which then coach Steve Sampson called “a golden point”—came in a 1997 World Cup qualifier at the dreaded Azteca Stadium.
The U.S. was down a man for most of the game, but battled and hustled its way to a 0-0 draw, probably the most satisfying 0-0 draw we have ever witnessed.
We remember Chris Henderson, who was famous for his off-the-charts fitness levels, charging tirelessly up and down the wings in the smoggy altitude of Mexico City.
By the end, the 100,000-plus home fans were cheering the visitors.