One momentary lapse in concentration cost Major League Soccer’s Real Salt Lake everything on Wednesday night.
That moment came in the dying seconds of the first half at Rio Tinto Stadium, in Sandy, Utah, where Real came into the second leg of its CONCACAF Champions League final against Monterrey of Mexico unbeaten at home in 37 games since 2009.
But the streak crumbled and Real’s hopes of winning the regional championship and advancing to the FIFA Club World Cup in December fell apart at the feet of veteran Chilean striker Humberto Suazo.
With Real Salt Lake having tied Monterrey, 2-2, in Mexico last week and needing only a 0-0 or 1-1 tie at home to win the title, Coach Jason Kreis’ team gave as good as it got for the first 44-plus minutes and the final 45 minutes.
But in the final seconds of the half, just before Panamanian referee Roberto Moreno blew his whistle and to the immense disappointment of the sellout crowd of 20,378, Suazo struck.
The shaven-headed 30-year-old forward exchanged passes inside the Real penalty area with teammate Sergio Santana as both bore down menacingly on Salt Lake goalkeeper Nick Rimando.
Having gained Rimando’s attention, Santana flicked a pass to Suazo on his right and the Chilean hammered the ball into the net from close range. It proved to be the only goal of the night as Monterrey won the match, 1-0, and the series, 3-2 on aggregate.
Los Rayados, the defending Mexican league champions, became the sixth Mexican club in a row to win the CONCACAF championship. Mexican teams have won 27 of the 46 tournaments played since the first in 1962.
The loss, meanwhile, denied Real Salt Lake the chance to become only the third MLS team to win the regional title and the first since the Galaxy in 2000.
The absence of suspended captain and playmaker Kyle Beckerman, the horrendous lack of form of Costa Rican forward Alvaro Saborio, a succession of glaring misses by Argentine striker Fabian Espindola, and an inability to hold on to the ball when it mattered and to create solid scoring opportunities ultimately cost Real Salt Lake the game and the glory.