Action from the Scotiabank CONCACAF Champions League game between Santa Tecla and visiting Real Salt Lake (white jersey) on September 15, 2015, in Santa Tecla, El Salvador. (Photo: Salvador Melendez)
SANDY, Utah -- Real Salt Lake holds destiny in its own hands, while Santa Tecla FC will try to avoid elimination when they meet Thursday night in the Scotiabank CONCACAF Champions League.
The Major League Soccer club can take a giant step toward booking a spot in next year's quarterfinals at Rio Tinto Stadium.
"I think it's a game that we can get after," Real goalkeeper Jeff Attinella said. "We're going to be at home on a field that we're used to, a bigger field. I think it's a team we can get after and put some goals in."
A win over the visiting Salvadorans would put Salt Lake (1W-1D-0L, 4 points) within a point of clinching the Group G crown as an October 20 confrontation looms with Municipal (1W-1D-1L, 4 points). Santa Tecla (0W-2D-1L, 2 points) needs a win in its final group stage match to keep its slim knockout-round hopes alive.
Real registered a 1-0 road win at Municipal on August 4, before playing a scoreless draw at Santa Tecla on September 15.
Although it is unbeaten and will host the final two group matches, the Claret and Cobalt is taking nothing for granted.
"They obviously bring a fight on how they contest a game," Real defender Aaron Maund commented in regard to Santa Tecla. "Their backs are against the wall. They're going to bring everything they have so we've got to be ready."
Real is unbeaten in its last three games (2W-1D-0L) across all competitions with league victories over the LA Galaxy (3-0) and the Houston Dynamo (3-1) sandwiched around last week's 0-0 SCCL stalemate.
Still, Tecla certainly has the respect of RSL head coach Jeff Cassar.
"They're an extremely hard-working team," he said. "They have a lot of heart. They get numbers around the ball defensively. I think that helps out their attack. Obviously, a difficult game down there. But being at home in front of our fans, being on this beautiful pitch, we need to move the ball around them and I think we can have a lot of joy."