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.