By now, this sort of do-or-die situation in CONCACAF Champions League play is old hat for Real Salt Lake.
So it’s no surprise RSL are saying all the right things ahead of their CCL Group 2 finale against Herediano at Rio Tinto Stadium (10 pm ET, Fox Soccer). After all, they’ve done this before.
"It is a massive game," general manager Garth Lagerwey said. "Pretending it’s not won’t make it go away. And I think everybody understands that — from the players in the locker room to the fans. They know what it’s all about."
The stakes are high and only one result – victory by a 1-0 scoreline or at least two goals – will do to dethrone the Costa Ricans from the top of Group 2. Accomplish that and Jason Kreis and his side move onto the quarterfinals.
Failure, well, they’re not thinking about that, especially since the potential loss in allocation money could have long-lasting effects on the current roster.
“We know there’s implications for allocation money and salary cap and how that’s going to affect our team next year,” Kreis said, “but I think what means more to us than that is to get back to the final and give ourselves another chance.”
Two things fall in RSL’s favor, though. First, the weather in Salt Lake City is likely to be outside Herediano’s comfort zone. Second, Kreis and his staff actually have tape available to break down their opponent after coming into the first meeting practically blind.
Meanwhile, the Houston Dynamo are in the same CCL boat, only they’re the ones being chased. Check out the complete CCL standings here.
Houston hold a three-point edge on Honduran side Olimpia in Group 3 ahead of tonight’s match at BBVA Compass Stadium (8 pm ET, Fox Soccer) and must either win or tie to move onto the knockout rounds.
Don’t expect Dominic Kinnear to use his first XI, though, as the Dynamo balance future playoff obligations by spreading minutes evenly throughout the squad. One Houston reporter is even urging Kinnear to look down his bench, and proposes a lineup that he believes will get the job done.
Check out this interview with Dynamo midfielder Boniek García ahead of his second CCL match against his former team (SPANISH), and see how Fox Soccer's Kyle McCarthy see things shaking out across the region.
The LA Galaxy have already sealed their place in the quarterfinals, but they got some good news on the domestic front as Landon Donovan and David Beckham returned to training on Monday.
Don't miss this exclusive interview with Donovan, where he touches on the toll the sport has taken on his personal life.
In Galaxy camp they're still not happy about what took place on Sunday in San Jose, specifically the way officials handled the match.
Speaking of LA, manager Bruce Arena has left a mark on the MLS coaching ranks and one columnist notes how the league continues to produce a healthy crop of young American coaches. Ben Olsen surely falls in that category, and the D.C. United boss got the feature treatment from The Washington Post.
Only Olsen didn't expect to be here after retiring in 2009. Not even close: “Did I think I’d still be relevant? Simple answer: no,” Olsen said. “No way I even saw myself coaching this team in 2012.”
Across the country in the Pacific Northwest, another coach has a headache to deal with after a talented youngster, recently signed in fact, declared he might have to move on if more playing time wasn't forthcoming. Read all about it here.
In Philadelphia, soccer writer Jonathan Tannenwald breaks down why John Hackworth should put a priority on getting out of the gates quickly in 2013.
No team got off to a better start in 2012 than Sporting KC. Find out why NBC Pro Soccer Talk's Steve Davis doesn't think Jimmy Nielsen is a "slam dunk" for Goalkeeper of the Year, and where Roger Espinoza stands ahead of Wednesday's match against the Union.
Sporting KC are still one of the favorites to reach MLS Cup, and they'll have to win two home-and-home series to do so. Forbes takes a closer look at the statistics behind the two-legged series.
Finally, Bobby McMahon also turns readers on to the soccer stat head who blazed the analytic trail even before Bill James.
Get the Kick-Off delivered to you!
Enter your email address and favorite team below to sign up for The Kick-Off mailing list and get it delivered to your inbox every morning.