SANDY, Utah — Disappointment is never easy to express. Moments after losing to 1-0 to Monterrey in the second leg of the CONCACAF Champions League final, eliminating Real Salt Lake from the tournament, the RSL staff and players struggled to put their feelings into words.
“A really difficult moment,” head coach Jason Kreis said. “We haven’t lost a match in this place in a long time. I’m confused at the moment.”
Entering this match, RSL boasted a 37-match unbeaten streak at Rio Tinto Stadium. Many observers expected the streak to continue. Even Kreis himself seemed to expect that.
“We’ve seen recently, many of those nights, something goes right for us and we walk out of here with a result,” Kreis said.
But on this night, the result didn’t come. Humberto Suazo’s first-half stoppage-time goal was enough for Monterrey to win the match as well as the aggregate series, 3-2.
“The game was lost in minutes 30 to 45,” Kreis said. “As I told the players last night, when you play a team like Monterrey, if you fall asleep for one play, they punish you. And that one play came right before the halftime.”
That one play was the Suazo goal, and it proved to be the difference.
“They overloaded my side,” said fullback Robbie Russell. “I think one of their midfielders was running through and I got caught in a one-two, and he went into the box, and ding-ding—goal.”
“I blame myself for not reading the run a little earlier,” Russell added. “It’s tough. It just didn’t seem to be our night.”
The goal came about through a lethal combination that Kreis had actually anticipated. He said the team had discussed the necessity to cut down on Monterrey’s passing in the midfield and, particularly, “in between our right back and center back.”
But the goal was not an isolated incident. It did not come against the run of play. It actually came in the culmination of an extended period of poor play by RSL.
“I think we just game them space and time,” midfielder Ned Grabavoy explained. “Probably a little bit more than we should have. We were under it for 10 or 15 minutes.”
But even down a goal, the RSL players felt confident, perhaps sensing Kreis’s sentiment about something going right and the inevitability of walking out of Rio Tinto with a result.
“We always thought we were going to come back,” Grabavoy said. “We still felt we were going to get a goal. It just didn’t come.”
After nearly 15 months of struggling to reach the final and a great deal of promotion of the match, it was not to be. And now, RSL must attempt to recover from this disappointment and prepare for their next game, this Saturday away to the Portland Timbers.
“From my point of view, we’ll see what kind of people we are now,” Kreis said. “You know, it’s a really easy task to talk about how good everybody is and how happy we are and all those sorts of things, when things are going our way. So now we have this major, major disappointment; let’s see how we respond.”