Real Salt Lake takes on Monterrey in the first leg of the CONCACAF Champions League final tonight (10:00 EST, Fox Soccer Channel), aiming to become the first MLS team to win the competition as it’s currently structured.
They face a tall task on several fronts.
• Monterrey, the defending Mexican league champions, boast Chilean superstar Humberto Suazo, Argentine playmaker Neri Cardozo, and Mexican international Aldo De Nigris. They are a seasoned team with no shortage of international experience.
• The temperature at kickoff is expected to be well into the 90s with a chance of cracking triple digits. RSL is coming from Salt Lake City, where there was snow last week.
• MLS teams have played 21 competitive games in Mexico in recent years without winning one. They’ve gone 0-19-2 in that span.
The second leg is next Wednesday at Rio Tinto Stadium (where RSL is unbeaten in 37 consecutive games). If Real Salt Lake can win the total-goals series, they would become the first MLS team ever to clinch a berth in the FIFA Club World Cup. This year’s edition of the CWC is set for December 8-18 in Japan.
There’s a lot at stake, a difficult opponent, a dubious field (why are there American-football lines on a pitch in Mexico?), and potentially brutal weather conditions.
Are Jason Kreis’s men up for the challenge? We’ll find out tonight, when the entire league will be pulling for RSL as it carries the MLS flag.