The Washington Post

Real Salt Lake holds off Saprissa to advance to the CONCACAF Champions League finals

In one of the biggest achievements in MLS history, Real Salt Lake became the first U.S. club to reach the CONCACAF Champions League finals Tuesday.

Despite a 2-1 loss to Saprissa in San Jose, Costa Rica, Real won the two-leg series on a 3-2 aggregate score.

An MLS team hasn’t played for the regional title since 2000, when the Los Angeles Galaxy defeated Honduran club Olimpia, 3-2, in the Champions Cup. Two years earlier, D.C. United edged Toluca of Mexico, 1-0. The Champions League format, modeled after the famed European tournament, was implemented in 2008.

Real — which defeated Saprissa, 2-0, three weeks ago in Sandy, Utah -- will face a Mexican team, Monterrey or Cruz Azul, in the finals, April 19 and 26. Monterrey carries a 2-1 lead into the second leg Wednesday night in Mexico City (8 p.m. ET, Fox Soccer Channel, Telefutura). The CONCACAF winner will earn a berth in the Club World Cup in December in Japan.

After Saprissa went ahead on a 28-yard blast by Luis Diego Cordero shortly after halftime, Jamison Olave’s seven-yard side volley off a deflected corner kick in the 60th minute leveled the score and restored RSL’s two-goal buffer on aggregate. Alonso Solis converted a penalty kick in the 87th, setting up a frantic finish. Real absorbed severe pressure before the final whistle sounded.

Steven Goff is The Post’s soccer writer. His beats include D.C. United, MLS and the international game, as well as local college basketball.

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