Well 2 of my 3 wildcards played a major role in the match, Emilio Renteria and Jair Marrufo both demanded much of the attention. I was impressed with the play of Reteria in the first half, and I was a bit surprised with the fluidity that Columbus played with, it appears that they may have found a number of quality players to replace all those who have left. Andres Mendoza was very impressive, while Robbie Rogers still leaves me wondering when he will become the player that everyone believes he is capable of.
Jair made some interesting calls, and even the Fox Soccer crew was puzzled by the second yellow given to Tony Beltran which gave Columbus a man advantage that they maintained when Jair issued straight red cards to Renteria and RSL's Nat Borchers. This of course impacts the match in a huge way, and I again wonder why after the group stages being officiated by neutral officials (not from a country involved in the match), they put a normal MLS official (and one with a reputation for making himself the story) in charge of the match?
more after the jump:
However, none of that explains the lack luster performance of RSL in the first half. I questioned the start of Espindola, who while always explosive and dangerous hadn't played much in the preseason, and that showed as he seemed to be playing by himself much more than being part of the offensive plan. In turn that meant that Saborio had to often get out of position to even get a touch on the ball, and to be honest he looked slow on and off the ball and I wonder if the combination of conditions and his injury kept him from being at top form.
I thought for RSL that Nick Rimando was as always rock solid, and while most of his saves were rather pedestrian, he was in the right place at the right time and did exactly what we have come to expect from him. The back line looked a bit surprised by the play of the Crew who were both very technical but also not afraid of physical play. I was shocked that Jamison Olave didn't pick up a yellow card in the match, he was as always a very physical force and there were a couple times that I thought he would get a card for multiple fouls. I didn't see what Borchers and Renteria did to get red cards, but Nat looked sharp in responding to the Crew attack and was also quick to move forward in support of the attack.
Chris Wingert was, Chris Wingert and that means you get a solid defensive effort and someone who will move forward with mixed effectiveness. I think part of the issues that Wingert had tonight had more to do with some disorganization in the midfield. Tony Beltran didn't deserve the second yellow, but he did look a bit off for most of the match as if he was torn between getting forward in support of the attack and then trying to get back quickly in support of the defense against a much quicker than expected Crew attack.
Perhaps no part of the RSL overall play was a bit more off tonight than was that of the midfield, it looked like that Javier Morales was lost for large stretches of the match, and as often as he would make positive moves forward, he was making negative passes to the back line. Part of that may have been the tough pressure of the Crew midfield, and part of it simply could be preseason rust. I thought Kyle was solid in doing what he does, being disruptive and breaking up opposing attacks, he passing was OK and I expect again that we will see improvements as early as next week. I thought Ned played a very solid game, he was there making some great passes and being creative, while maintaining his support of the defense. Will Johnson was again in the right place at the right time a good number of times, but I think he like the rest of the midfield was disrupted from their norm by the way the Crew played tonight.
Well a 0-0 draw on opposing soil, while down a man for majority of the second half isn't what most RSL fans expected but they can take heart that the Crew have played 3 matches at Rio Tinto, and they have lost each of them and the combined score of the 3 matches is 8-1 in favor of Real Salt Lake. The forecast for next Tuesday is high 40's and cloudy, which means it is anyones guess as to what the weather will be at 8pm. RSL is expecting 12-15,000 fans for the match, so remember to dress warmly and come out to support the home team as they look to make history by advancing to the CONCACAF Champions League Semi-Finals.
OFF MY SOAPBOX