Real Salt Lake forgot the crucial soccer statistic that shows most goals are scored just after each half starts and just before each period ends.
Most coaches remind their players of these vulnerability moments, but RSL became undone in this crucial moment. With only seconds into first half extra time, Humberto Suazo was on the end of a brilliant combination play with Sergio Santana and scored the only goal of the game to lead Monterrey to a win in the crucial second leg of the CONCACAF Champions League final last Wednesday night at Rio Tinto Stadium in Sandy, Utah.
Just over 20,000 fans had piled into Rio Tinto Stadium, hoping to witness history in the making: RSL was the first MLS team to reach the new CONCACAF Champions League final and seeking to become the first U.S. team to win this tournament. Instead, Mexican champion Monterrey won its first Champions League title.
The victory for Monterrey came against many odds; RSL was unbeaten in 37 matches at home during the past year, the team was coming off a 2-2 draw at Monterrey a week earlier, and although RSL would be missing defensive midfielder Kyle Beckerman, Monterrey was winless in its last seven matches and would be missing starters Aldo De Nigris and Jesus Zavala because of yellow card infractions and captain Luis Perez due of injury.
But Chilean international Suazo and teammates, after a tentative start by both teams, emerged to capitalize on one of few chances that came their way in the first. The second half was an uphill battle for RSL; with its fans prodding it on, RSL attacked relentlessly in search of the equalizer that never came. Monterrey won the two-leg series on a 3-2 aggregate and will represent CONCACAF at next summer’s FIFA World Club Championship.
RLS (4-1-0, 12 pts.) suffered the effects of the Champions League loss as it was beaten, 1-0, at Portland Timbers Saturday night. Forward Kenny Cooper scored in the first half and the Portland Timbers handed Real Salt Lake its first MLS loss of the season, 1-0. Cooper scored off a cross from Kalif Alhassan in the 22nd minute. The expansion Timbers (3-3-1), undefeated at home in three matches, recorded its first shutout of the season. ‘“We performed unbelievably well tonight and that says a lot after last week’s defeat,’’ Timbers coach John Spencer said.
The Timbers, which had allowed 13 goals, the most this season in MLS, got a stellar performance from goalkeeper Troy Perkins, who returned recently from injury. “We wanted that clean sheet,’’ Perkins said. “We came out organized and we believed we were going to fight until the end.’’
Red Bulls Win
The New York Red Bulls (4-1-2, 14 pts.) now sits atop the Eastern Conference standings when it defeated Sporting Kansas City, 1-0, on forward Luke Rodgers’ third goal in the last three MLS games. In the home game at Red Bull Arena Saturday night, Raffael Marquez took a quickly executed free kick from midfield, sent the first pass to Thierry Henry, who found Dwayne De Rosario on the right wing; De Rosario sent a cross into the penalty box where Rodgers made no mistake in registering the only goal of the game in the 22nd minute.
“I like to get in the box and try to score goals,’’ Rodgers said. “But I just want to play as many games as I can and get my fitness level to where it should be.’’ Rodgers, who played for Red Bulls coach Hans Backe during the coach’s sting in England, has been the first-choice starter over U.S. international Juan Argudelo the past three games. Backe believes that Rodgers creates better chemistry with the other frontrunner Henry, and the player is proven the coach to be right. Sporting Kansas City (1-4-1, 4 pts.) is winless in five games.
Forward Sebastien Le Toux led hosts Philadelphia Union (4-1-1, 13 pts.) to a 1-0 win over the San Jose Earthquakes (1-4-2, 5 pts.) on Saturday in MLS. Le Toux, traded from Seattle Sounders at the start of last season, has been the leading score for the Union since he arrived. The winner came from a penalty kick in the 76th minute.
In other MLS results last Saturday, Columbus knocked off Vancouver Whitecaps, 2-1, Colorado and Chicago played to a 1-1 draw, Seattle defeated Toronto, 3-0; and Chivas USA got the better of New England, 3-0. On Sunday, hosts FC Dallas defeated the Los Angeles Galaxy, 2-1, at Pizza Hut Park. Fabian Castillo gave Dallas a 1-0 lead in the 47th minute and Landon Donovan equalized in the 51st with his third goal of the season. Forward turned defender Brek Shea scored the winner in the 87th minute. On Friday, Houston defeated D.C. United, 4-1.