2011 CCL Final: RSL dealt gut-punch, misses out to Monterrey at home
This was a gut-punch game for RSL and MLS
All the conditions were there for the most important international achievement in MLS's 16-year history. After an inspiring 2-2 tie last week in Monterrey, Salt Lake needed just a victory or a 0-0 or 1-1 tie to win MLS's first CONCACAF Champions League title and reach the FIFA Club World Cup this December.
What's more, RSL entered the game with a 34-match home unbeaten run in all competitions, quite likely the longest current streak in world club soccer.
But Salt Lake couldn't convert a flurry of early chances, and Monterrey's Chilean striker Humberto Suazo, perhaps the finest player in CONCACAF, scored the eventual trophy-winner on a play when Salt Lake was guilty of ball-watching.
Some MLS observers had proclaimed before the game that Salt Lake's triumph was in the bag, but Monterrey came up with an impressive victory in a hostile environment. Full credit to Rayados. Sometimes Goliath wins.
Álvaro Saborío didn't show up
Instead Saborío continued his recent run of poor form, failing to create many dangerous chances–his lone good one was headed right at the goalkeeper–and never seeming to be as active as his front-line mate Fabián Espíndola. On a night when Salt Lake was missing its inspirational captain, Kyle Beckerman, on a yellow-card suspension, it needed Saborío to come up big. The Costa Rican didn't answer the call.
There are no moral victories here
There are plenty of positives to take away from Salt Lake's run to the CCL final. RSL played winning, entertaining soccer at home and in tough foreign environments, winning respect for the gains made by MLS. The fans in Salt Lake turned out in great numbers to support their team, showing that they understood exactly what RSL had accomplished. And MLS showed it can go toe-to-toe with the reigning Mexican champion.
But let's be honest: Salt Lake's own players and management said they had to win this final, and their hard work in Monterrey last week set up the home leg perfectly. Not sealing the deal is a crushing blow for a team that had what it took to raise the trophy as the continent's best club team.