Monterrey 2-2 Real Salt Lake
Javier Morales scored an 89th-minute equalizer to give Real Salt Lake a 2-2 draw at Monterrey on Wednesday in the first leg of the CONCACAF Champions League final.
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.
Humberto Suazo put Monterrey ahead again from the penalty spot on the hour, but Morales leveled with a diagonal drive just before the final whistle.
''It was a very difficult game, but we studied Monterrey beforehand and knew they were a strong team that attacks well and has players that can cause you problems,'' Salt Lake's Costa Rican forward Alvaro Saborio said.
The draw and two away goals puts 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 score at least three goals in a draw to take the title. A 2-2 draw would lead to extra time and the possibility of penalties.
''We've got 90 minutes left and we are going to play with the same conviction in the return leg. We know we've got to try and win the game in Salt Lake, but we've got to stay organized,'' Monterrey defender Jose Basanta said.
Victory also would make Real Salt Lake the first American team to dispute 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 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 both substituted 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 when Will Johnson lifted a cross into the box and Nat Borchers beat two defenders to the ball to head past goalie Jonathan Orozco.
''It's one of the virtues we've got and we wanted to take advantage of the aerial game,'' Saborio said. ''But we also did well with the ball on the ground and took our chances.''
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 on the hour but Jamison Olave diverted behind.
Salt Lake failed to heed the warning. Two minutes later, Cardozo's run and cross down the left was handled by a Salt Lake defender and Suazo dispatched the penalty into a bottom corner to restore the lead.
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 Basanta before unleashing a shot across Orozco and into the net.
Salt Lake's major worry was a yellow card for American international midfielder Kyle Beckermann which rules the captain out of the second leg.