RSL Becomes First MLS Team Ever to Advance to CCL Semis

Between our hosting site conking out, a ton of day-job stuff and a couple of MLS assignments (see their site later today and tomorrow, we think), we’ve been a bit waylaid the past day and a half. But let’s get right to Tuesday night’s CONCACAF Champions League clash between Salt Lake and Columbus.

Does this look like a soft goal to you?

Click here to see it from different angles. Seems like Columbus (third-string) keeper Ray Burse was slow to react, or not positioned well, or both. The ball was closer to smack-in-the-middle of the goal than it was to the top corner.

The strike, by midfielder Andy Williams, was Real Salt Lake’s final goal in a 4-1 win that made them the first MLS team ever to advance to the semifinals of the CCL.

Two of RSL’s other goals were also of the should-have-been-prevented variety: they came after Javier Morales and Alvaro Saborio went curiously unmarked in the box, took simple diagonal balls and deposited them past Burse. After the game, Columbus coach Robert Warzycha said his backline had been caught in misguided attempts to play the offside trap—in the box—on both of those goals.

Still, the game was closer than its lopsided scoreline suggested, and it was a far cry from the previous Tuesday’s first leg in Columbus, where the teams slogged through snow and freezing conditions to a sloppy scoreless draw that included three ejections.

In the second leg, Columbus went down 2-0 on the Morales and Saborio goals, but pulled one back early in the second half on a sweet strike from Peruvian forward Andres Mendoza. Just like that, we had an entertaining game on our hands, and both teams put together skillful stretches of attacking play.

But two more goals from RSL—Morales’s second, in the 77th minute, and the Williams free kick—put it away for the home team.

Complete highlights here:

Salt Lake got the result despite missing starting wingback Tony Beltran and centerback Nat Borchers, who were out with red-card suspensions.

Columbus was missing striker Emilio Renteria (red-card suspension), along with four other starters—defenders Chad Marshall and Shaun Francis, midfielder Danny O’Rourke, and goalkeeper Will Hesmer—due to injuries.

In the semifinals later this month, Real Salt Lake will meet the winner of the Saprissa (Costa Rica) /Olimpia (Honduras) quarterfinal, whose second leg is tonight.

Tuesday’s victory extended RSL’s home unbeaten streak to 34 games.