Salt Lake grabs late draw in CONCACAF final

Javier Morales scored an 89th-minute equalizer to give Real Salt

Lake a 2-2 draw at Monterrey in the first leg of the CONCACAF

Champions League final Wednesday.

Aldo De Nigris opened the scoring for Monterrey in the 18th

minute, before Nat Borchers headed an equalizer in the 35th for

Salt Lake, which is bidding to become the first U.S. club to win

the continental title since the Los Angeles Galaxy in 2000.

Suazo put Monterrey ahead again from the penalty spot on the

hour, but Morales leveled with a diagonal drive just before the

final whistle.

The draw made MLS teams 0-21-4 in competitive matches in

Mexico.

But the two away goals put Salt Lake in a positive position

ahead of the return leg in Utah next Wednesday.

Salt Lake would be crowned champions with a home win or by

holding Monterrey to a 0-0 or 1-1 draw. Monterrey must win or draw

3-3 (or by a higher total) to take the title. A 2-2 draw would lead

to extra time and the possibility of penalties.

Victory would also make Salt Lake the first American team to

play in the Club World Cup, a December tournament played against

the other continental champions including the European Champions

League winner and South America’s Copa Libertadores holder.

Monterrey enjoyed the best of the early chances with Humberto

Suazo’s shot from the edge of the area forcing Salt Lake goalkeeper

Nick Rimando into a flying save to tip the ball over the bar in the

ninth minute.

The early pressure paid off when Monterrey’s full back Sergio

Perez joined the attack on the right and forced the ball across

goal for De Nigris to finish.

De Nigris and captain Luis Perez were forced off with injuries

in the 22nd minute, but Monterrey kept pushing and Suazo brought

another diving save out of Rimando with a low curling shot in the

25th.

Despite the sluggish start, Salt Lake began to move the ball

with greater precision and the equalizer came from a high ball into

the box – a traditional weak spot of Mexican teams often exploited

by more athletic American sides.

Will Johnson lifted a cross toward the penalty spot and Nat

Borchers beat two defenders to the ball to head past goalie

Jonathan Orozco.

Monterrey regrouped after the break and controlled possession in

the Salt Lake half. Neri Cardozo almost put the home side in front

after breaking onto an Osvaldo Martinez pass at the 60-minute mark,

but Jamison Olave diverted behind.

Two minutes later, Cardozo’s run and cross down the left was

handled by a Salt Lake defender and Suazo sent the penalty into the

bottom corner.

Nonetheless, Monterrey’s inconsistent form since winning the

Mexican league title in December resurfaced in the final

stages.

Salt Lake’s Argentine striker Morales collected the ball on the

edge of the box and cut inside Jose Basanta before unleashing a

shot across Orozco that nestled in the corner.