Share | |
By Brian Dunseth
When you dig in to the stats and really think about what is "a positive result", how do you define it? What would be a team's ideal scenario? Would the fans' perspective be different?
Would you rather be the road team and draw 0-0 or 1-1? Is 2-2 acceptable?
The last thing any team wants to do is go on the road and give up a couple of goals. But what if a team gave up a couple of goals on the road, and then rallied to end level after 90 minutes?
The mantra of head coaches and players is inevitably "keeping the zero in the back is important to us." But is it really? Away goals are a valuable commodity.
The CONCACAF Champions League regulations state that if the teams are tied on aggregate goals after regulation time at the end of the second leg, the first determining factor to decide a winner is: Greater aggregate number of away goals scored in regulation time in the
The Columbus Crew and Real Salt Lake quarterfinal is just one example.
Three red cards (Tony Beltran received two yellows by the 52nd minute, while Emilio Renteria and Nat Borchers were both sent off for an off the ball incident) gave Columbus a man advantage for nearly half the match at Crew Stadium.
The home side put incredible pressure on the back line of RSL, only to see the visitors hold strong and walk away with a 0-0 result.
In Major League Soccer play, that's a great result under the circumstances for Real Salt Lake.
In the CONCACAF Champions League quarterfinals (and semifinals/finals), maybe not so much.
Seven days later, the two MLS teams met at Rio Tinto Stadium in Sandy, Utah, and going into the game, the Crew knew if they could find a way to put the ball in the back of the net in any way, Real Salt Lake would have to score at least two goals to advance. If the Crew could get two goals, Real Salt Lake would have to score three..... And so on and so on.
From a casual observer's perspective, you'd think that the Crew might have had the advantage heading into the match because the pressure to score goals would fall squarely on the shoulders of the home side.
And don't think for a second that Real Salt Lake not registering a single shot on goal in the first match while playing a man down for 38 minutes wasn't mentioned prominently in the media previewing the second leg.
Was Columbus the better team despite losing so many influential players in the offseason?
How would Real Salt Lake approach the start? Would it feel compelled to score goals at home to justify a 33-game unbeaten streak in all competitions at Rio Tinto as well as push to earn its place in the CONCACAF Champions League semifinals? Would the Crew sit back and defend while looking to use their incredible speed on the counter attack?
RSL prevailed 4-1 on the night, but not before two balls hitting the post and the Crew pulling one back early in the second half to put a tremendous amount of pressure on Nick Rimando's back line.
The confidence, the ball movement, the chances and the result all fell in line on the night. Real Salt Lake was through to the semifinals.
Real Salt Lake was on the road to start off the quarterfinals, but they'll have to adjust their approach now that they begin at home in the semifinals.
You have to wonder if Jason Kreis' approach might change in the next round after seeing both Cruz Azul and Monterrey get solid wins on the road and follow those with another at home.
It makes life difficult to head out on the road without that opening result at home in your back pocket.