SANDY, Utah – Real Salt Lake was eliminated from the CONCACAF Champions League on Tuesday night when it drew 0-0 with CS Herediano of Costa Rica.
Herediano's insistence on sitting back on its heels — and a penchant for flopping in the second half — left Salt Lake players and coaches frustrated.
"Yeah, it's standard when you play these teams," RSL midfielder Will Johnson said. "Diving. Time wasting. You know exactly what you're going to get. They think that's a good way to play."
The biggest problem for RSL coach Jason Kreis is that the officials did not take control of the game and add enough time to curtail the theatrics.
"For me, it's ugly," Kreis said. "It's not what this sport is about. The referees need to be smart enough to say, 'We're going to add on time.'"
Salt Lake dominated Herediano throughout the first half, holding the ball more than 60 percent of the time and taking seven shots on goal.
A series of brilliant saves by Leo Moreira — punctuated by his leaping grab of a long distance dart from Javier Morales in the closing minutes of the first half — kept RSL from breaking through offensively.
A potential goal from RSL defender Nat Borchers was also wiped out in the 16th minute. Borchers knocked in a header off a corner kick, only to have it waved off after a foul by teammate Chris Schuler.
"It's a tough one to take," RSL midfielder Kyle Beckerman said. "We created enough chances to score four or five tonight, but we didn't and so we're not moving on."
Herediano stayed mostly on its heels during the first half, fending off the RSL attack. But the Costa Rican side nearly put RSL in a big hole with its lone shot on goal in the 25th minute. RSL keeper Nick Rimando was caught out of position and Luis Gil cleared Junior Alvarado's shot off the line to keep it scoreless.
Another mistake by Schuler nearly allowed Herediano to score in the 57th minute. Schuler had a bad giveaway at midfield. Yendrick Ruiz took advantage and fired a shot across the area. The ball glanced off the left post and took a lucky bounce away from the goalmouth.
The remainder of the second half became marred by theatrics from Herediano players. Flopping after contact grew bad enough that Moreira earned a yellow card in the 89th minute for delaying the game.
"They made it really difficult obviously in the second half," Kreis said. "Literally 11 players almost in the penalty box. It's always going to be difficult to score when you're playing an opponent like that."