This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2011, and information in the article may be outdated.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.
Lehi • Its last game felt like a victory, even though it wasn't.
The team won international acclaim for its rare and impressive achievement of taking home a draw from Mexico, and fans even greeted it at the airport, as if the players were already packing a CONCACAF Champions League trophy in their carry-on luggage, too.
But it's not over yet.
That was the message that Real Salt Lake carried into its return to training Saturday for the home leg of its two-game Champions League series against Monterrey, knowing that it still must perform well at sold-out Rio Tinto Stadium on Wednesday night to claim the continental championship and earn a place at the prestigious FIFA Club World Cup.
"Nothing is given yet," midfielder Andy Williams said. "Definitely, they're going to come in here and be looking for that goal, and it's going to be key who gets that goal first. … We'll play our usual game that we play at home, and hopefully, deal with them early."
RSL is unbeaten in 37 straight games in all competitions at home and needs just a win or a low-scoring draw to clinch the biggest achievement in Major League Soccer history after pulling out a 2-2 draw in the first leg last week on a stunning late equalizer by midfielder Javier Morales at Monterrey.
Only a loss or multigoal draw can keep RSL from hoisting the trophy, but players and coaches are justifiably wary of a Monterrey team that "did tear us apart" in the second half of the first leg, coach Jason Kreis said.
"We have to feel good about what we accomplished down there," he said. "We have to feel good about the result we bring back, but it's a measured good, for sure, because this is a very dangerous opponent and we still have a lot of work to do."
Not as much as Monterrey, though.
While RSL will be without talismanic midfielder Kyle Beckerman due to caution accumulation, Monterrey will be without forward Aldo de Nigris and midfielder Luis Perez both national team players for Mexico because of thigh injuries suffered in the first leg.
De Nigris is also suspended for caution accumulation.
What's more, his team had to play an important league game at home Saturday, while RSL enjoyed a day off from league competition after the Philadelphia Union agreed to move their previously scheduled game to September precisely to afford RSL a better chance to rest and prepare for its big opportunity.
Still, RSL players said they expect Monterrey to come out firing, which could pose a serious challenge for goalkeeper Nick Rimando and his back line of defenders.
"They're not going to lay down," midfielder Ned Grabavoy said. "We haven't accomplished anything yet.
What does RSL have to do to win trophy?
• Real Salt Lake will win the title if it wins the game or earns a 0-0 or 1-1 draw.
• Monterrey will win the title if it wins the game or earns a draw of 3-3 or more.
• If the teams draw 2-2, they will play a 30-minute overtime and then take penalty kicks, if necessary, to determine the winner.
Monterrey at RSL
P At Rio Tinto Stadium,8 p.m., Wednesday
TV • Fox Soccer