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RSL prepares for its first CCL match

Posted on 17 August 2010 by kali

As Real Salt Lake prepares for its first-ever CONCACAF Champions League match, a lot of things are unfamiliar to the team — from the opposition to the tournament itself.

Not only will Wednesday’s match against Arabe Unido on Wednesday night (8 pm MT, Fox Soccer Channel) mark RSL’s first venture into a competitive international tournament, but Real has little idea of what to expect from its opponent.  Although the reigning Panamanian champions appeared in the Champions League previously, RSL had difficulty locating video of this season’s iteration.  With only five Arabe Unido players returning from last year’s team, the lack of scouting reports complicated Real coach Jason Kreis’ preparations for the match.

Luckily for RSL, however, that key first match will be at home — Rio Tinto Stadium has become a virtual fortress for Real over the past two seasons.  “It’s good for us, because we have our first game at home,” Rimando told The Salt Lake Tribune. “So we’re going to play exactly how we play against any team.”

In addition, Kreis plans to field a starting eleven that will have had plenty of big-game experience, demonstrating the club’s prioritization of the Champions League.  Nick Rimando, Robbie Russell, Jamison Olave, Nat Borchers, Chris Wingert, Kyle Beckerman, Will Johnson, Ned Grabavoy, Javier Morales, Alvaro Saborio, and Fabian Espindola are the probable starters for Wednesday’s match.

“I thought it was going to be a little bit of a sales job for me to tell them how important this tournament is for our club. As has happened many times before, my players made me very pleased because they were all saying how important it was to them,” Kreis said after last Saturday’s league victory over the Columbus Crew.

While Arabe Unido, who reached the CCL quarterfinals last year, ought to present a stern challenge for RSL in Group A, Wednesday’s match is only the first step to progressing in the tournament.  Real will travel to Mexico to face Cruz Azul on August 25, face Toronto FC at home on September 15, travel to Panama on September 22 and Toronto on September 28, then host Cruz Azul on October 19.

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