Real advances to CONCACAF semifinals

 

 

Fortune favors the bold.

It's Real Salt Lake coach Jason Kreis' personal motto, something the fourth-year boss has imbued into the core of his team since the moment he first took over the franchise's reins.

On Tuesday night, RSL boldly went where no Major League Soccer team has gone before.

Central midfielder Javier Morales scored twice and dished off a textbook assist as the Claret-and-Cobalt stormed past Columbus 4-1, claiming their two-leg CONCACAF Champions League quarterfinal series against the Crew in resounding fashion at Rio Tinto Stadium.

The result makes RSL the first MLS team to advance to the semifinal round of the tournament, where it will host either CD Saprissa or CD Olimpia in the opening leg at Rio Tinto at 8 p.m. on March 15.

"It was a good, strong performance all around," Kreis said. "We've been talking a lot about it and we've managed to put ourselves under a tremendous amount of pressure (to be successful in the Champions League)."

Sasprissa currently leads the aggregate series 1-0, with the second leg set for Thursday night.

Forward Alvaro Saborio opened up the scoring in the 23rd minute, knocking home a fantastic slicing pass Morales off a play from Andy Williams to make it 1-0.

Morales made it 2-0 in the 36th minute, easily finishing an open shot deep in the box. Williams, after getting the ball from Fabian Espindola, found Morales in an open space on the left angle, creating an easy 1-on-1 scoring chance.

Real looked in complete control heading into the locker room at halftime, but Columbus was determined not to go away quietly. The Crew opened the second half with strong play and quickly cut the lead to one on a goal from Andres Mendoza. The goal started turning the momentum of the next 20 minutes toward the visiting side as they pressed for the equalizer.

Morales effectively killed off the match in the 77th minute when second half substitute Paulo Araujo Jr. found Morales sitting in open space at center on the 18.

Morales quickly smashed home the shot to make it 3-1, and Williams added a goal late in stoppage on a 20-yard free kick from the left angle.

Real, which did not attempt a shot in its scoreless first-leg draw at Columbus, outshot the visitors 16-8 in running its home unbeaten streak across all competitions to 34 consecutive matches.

 

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