No one could have blamed them if they'd come up empty. Sporting an all-time record of 0-21-3 in games played in Mexico, Major League Soccer clubs haven't exactly distinguished themselves down south, so coming home with a 2-1 loss from the first leg of the CONCACAF Champions League final in Monterrey would have been a commendable effort for Jason Kreis's Real Salt Lake club.
But commendable will never be good enough for this current collection of RSL players. Slaying the goliath that is the Los Angeles Galaxy - David Beckham, Landon Donovan et al. - in the 2009 MLS Cup final proved that.
So, with just one minute to play out of the regulation 90, Argentine playmaker Javier Morales picked up the ball outside the area, dribbled past a defender before firing a dipping shot that nestled just inside the far post.
The 2-2 draw may seem like the tie is still up for grabs, but Salt Lake will head home with a huge amount of confidence, even though a yellow card to captain Kyle Beckerman rules him out of next Wednesday's second leg.
The reason? Well, when you've gone 34 games without loss since moving into Rio Tinto Stadium back in 2008, as RSL has, it tends to give you a certain swagger. That inability to lose at home, presuming it holds up for one more game, will almost certainly guarantee Salt Lake an MLS-first berth at the Club World Cup in Japan this December, complete with the opportunity to go head to head with the UEFA Champions League winner - likely one of Real Madrid, Barcelona or Manchester United - and a share of the more than $16-million (U.S.) purse to be shared among the seven competing clubs.
"The result, that's huge," said Kreis of the 2-2 draw in Mexico. "Now there are three results that will advance us: nil-nil, one-one or any kind of win."
More than that though, winning the Champions League and going to Japan will mean that MLS has truly arrived on a global stage - "The level we aspire to," according to Vancouver Whitecaps CEO Paul Barber - opening the door for more Beckhams, Henrys and equally talented players without the name recognition to make their way to our shores.
Looked at in that light, Javier Morales's goal could quite conceivably be the most important goal ever scored by an MLS club.Report Typo/Error