As the only MLS team to have reached the CONCACAF Champions League finals since the tournament's 2008 redesign, Real Salt Lake will return to the tournament with that same drive that keyed their success in the 2010-11 edition.
RSL's second-place standing in the Western Conference and contention for the Supporters' Shield makes it clear that they have the talent to power through the games ahead in the upcoming group stages and beyond as they look to turn their current MLS momentum into another run at the CONCACAF title.
Best Showing: Runners-up (2010-11)
Memorable CCL Moments:
RSL's first CCL experience was bittersweet as they became the first MLS team to reach the finals, only to lose to Mexican powerhouse Monterrey 3-2 on aggregate in the 2010-11 finals. After earning a respectable 2-2 draw in the first leg in Mexico, the Claret-and-Cobalt failed to find the back of the net at home and went down 1-0 in the second leg.
- It wasn't all doom and gloom, though. After emerging as leaders of their group ahead of group favorites Cruz Azul from Mexico, a series which included a memorable 5-4 loss in Mexico City, they topped the Columbus Crew and Costa Rica's Deportivo Saprissa before falling just short fo the title.
Who will they face?
Herediano: RSL will start their journey against the Costa Rican champions. The Verano 2012 Primera División winners won the Costa Rican league title for the first time in nearly 20 years, earning them a spot in the CCL for the third time in the club's history.
Finishing their national tournament in late May, the 22-time champions remain in top form. Last year, El Team Florense experienced an embarrassing defeat as they finished last in their group with the competition's fourth-worst record. RSL should have some insight in Herediano's style, with leading goalscorer Álvaro Saborío a veteran of the Costa Rican league. Attacking midfielder Marvin Angulo, a 25-year-old with 33 Costa Rican national team caps to his name, should command plenty of RSL's attention in the teams' two games.
Tauro: This is the 11-time Panamanian champions' fourth appearance in the CCL. Having won their Clausura 2012 title in May, they're also coming off a high and ready to face RSL.
Panamanian international Luis Rentería is gone, having made the move to Bolívar of the Bolivian league. But Tauro still have attacker Edwin Aguilar, who is on the roster despite rumors he, too, would be out the door. Tauro even went as far as signing new players to prepare for the tourney with the addition of Manuel Asprilla from Tigres UANL’s reserve side to defend the Tauro goal.
Can this team be the first MLS side to win a CCL title?
RSL have been having a mostly solid season, still in contention for the MLS Supporters' Shield. But there have been a number of worrying results along the way, most recently a 5-0 thumping at the hands of the San Jose Earthquakes, not to mention a rare pair of losses at home not long before that defeat. It’s tough to say how far this team will go despite being group favorites. If Saborío can keep up his torrid form and captain Kyle Beckerman and playmaker Javier Morales can conjure up the magic from 2010-11, it would be unwise to bet against the Claret-and-Cobalt.