Real Salt Lake learned their opponent for the 2010-11 CONCACAF Champions League yesterday, and if they want to reach the tournament final, they’ll have to buck the odds and history.
That’s because they’ll face Costa Rican dynasty Saprissa, which knocked off Olimpia of Honduras 2-1 last night to advance, and which has lost just twice in 14 games against MLS competition.
Saprissa has eliminated MLS teams from the CCL knockout stages four times and boasts a 7-2-5 (w-l-t) record against teams from the U.S. circuit.
There’s that history, and then there’s the Costa Rican team’s fearsome home stadium—known as the Purple Monster or the Monster’s Cave—which has been especially inhospitable to MLS sides and the U.S. national team.
The Nats have never won there in seven tries—all losses—and MLS teams have also been shut out of W’s at Saprissa.
Salt Lake, of course, are not too shabby at home either, having gone unbeaten in 34 consecutive games at Rio Tinto Stadium. Additionally, they may have a useful spy in their midst, striker and designated player Alvaro Saborio, who played for Saprissa from 2001 to 2006.
RSL hosts the first leg on March 15, which is also the day Seattle and Los Angeles kick off the 2011 MLS season at Qwest Field.
The second leg is in San Jose on April 5. Here’s a little sample of the atmosphere that awaits visitors to El Monstruo Morado: