This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2011, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.
Mighty Mo' itself might as well have been suited up in claret and cobalt on Wednesday night, with XANGO written across its chest, taking direction from Jason Kreis, taking a shot at a CONCACAF Champions League title against Monterrey, taking bows in front of the 20,378 on hand at Rio Tinto Stadium.
Rio Tinto ... isn't that where momentum had taken up residence for the past two years? That's how long it had been since Real Salt Lake had dropped a game there. They hadn't lost in 34 straight MLS and CCL games at RTS, 37 straight including exhibitions. For a building that was such a headache for RSL owner Dave Checketts to get approved, funded and constructed, the good vibes were well worth his pain.
But, suddenly, more pain showed up all uninvited.
Momentum took a big blow.
In the second leg of RSL's series with Los Rayados for the continental club crown, Monterrey dashed the home team's dreams, winning the game, 1-0, and the final, on aggregate, 3-2, after last week's draw in Mexico.
Heading in, there didn't seem to be much of any way RSL was going to blow their chance at history, at moving on to the FIFA Club World Cup, not in a place that housed such a positive flow. On top of that, Real had lost only four times overall in their last 42 MLS/CCL games.
All it took, though, to dispense with the entirety of that was one shot on goal, Monterrey's only one of the night, that found its way into the back of RSL's net in extra time just before the end of the first half.
Humberto Suazo pounced on a ball directly in front of Real's goal, deftly touching it left and nudging it in.
Prior to that Monterrey score, RSL had been alternately aggressive and ragged, keeping pressure on, at times, and easing off, at others. In the run-up to the goal, if fiddle-faddling around isn't a technical soccer term ... well, it should be. That's what Real seemed to be doing. It cost them with nothing more than 20 seconds left to play before the break.
Kreis said afterward he was pleased with 75 minutes of soccer from his team Wednesday night, but that 15-minute stretch leading up to the goal was a killer: "I wanted an aggressive mentality. But the movement in our midfield wasn't good enough. ... It was the exact thing we didn't want to allow."
In the second half, Real poured it on, knowing full well not scoring wasn't an option. Again and again, they took their shots, especially from the 56th minute on. Kicks flew just wide, headers went straight to the keeper, balls were blocked.
"I felt like it never was going to be easy," Kreis said. "[After they scored], I thought the challenge in front of us was a good one."
If nothing else, RSL had been clutch in tough situations. Seven times in the last 26 MLS/CCL games, they had scored either an equalizer or game-winner after the 80th minute. Just last week at Monterrey, Javier Morales had done exactly that, tying the count at 2 in the 89th minute. This time, there was no such good fortune.
Shots weren't the only thing that missed the mark.
A once-in-a-lifetime chance did, too.
"This was a huge opportunity gone missing," Kreis said, adding: "Everybody gave it their best. We had a good enough team out there to win."
But that last part seemed to make the outcome that much worse for the home team, a group that had expected to win, right up until Mighty Mo' left them on their own field, devastated and, for the first time in two years, beaten.
GORDON MONSON hosts "The Gordon Monson Show" weekdays from 2-6 p.m. on 104.7 FM/1280 AM The Zone. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.