Well, here we are again. A week ago, in front of about (alleged) 5,000 fans at Crew Stadium, RSL were held to a 0-0 draw by a Columbus side that played better than expected. But despite the shutout, RSL suffered a couple of losses; Tony Beltran and more importantly Nat Borchers were both sent off by Jair Marrufo, as well as Emilio Renteria. Robbie Russell and Rashawn McKenzie will likely slot into defense (more on McKenzie later).
Now, I'm sure people realize this already, but this is one RSL's most important games in their short history. A win here could be a springboard for big success; likewise, a loss would be a big setback. On a side note, what do you guys think have been RSL's most important games besides that little playoff run way back in 2009?
Much more after the jump...
RSL's Key Players:
Rashawn McKenzie: Certainly the biggest game of his career, in lieu of the suspended Borchers, McKenzie will likely come up against a tricky player in Mendoza or Cunningham. He's appeared shaky occasionally in the few times he's played for RSL, and he can't afford that tonight. In fact, a clean sheet would be a huge boost for RSL's hopes.
Javier Morales: Really couldn't impact the first leg, but Morales will know that tonight he cannot go missing. He needs to get the ball as often as possible and try to really penetrate the Crew's defense, whether that's through set pieces or perfect through balls.
Columbus' Key Players:
Robbie Rogers: The winger has largely underachieved throughout his MLS career, but one important play tonight could be infinitely useful for the Crew. He still is a danger with his pace and RSL must be wary of the winger. We saw last year in the playoffs how dangerous he can be when he struck against Colorado.
Andres Mendoza: Against McKenzie in defense, Mendoza will look to be a danger. He was a nuisance in the first leg, and will look to get on the scoresheet. Certainly one of the better players in the Crew's lineup, if he can have a good night then the Crew probably will too.
Arturo Alvarez: Didn't play in the first leg, and as such has yet to make his debut in the Claret and Cobalt. I think tonight could be his night however, especially if the game is still level late on. He has not been able to train with the squad a lot, so if he comes in there are questions regarding his ability to fit in... but we all know he can change a game.
Jeff Cunningham: Nearly scored in the dying moments of the first leg after coming off the bench, which was very scary. With Renteria out he is likely to start, and we all know how good he can be against RSL. If he can have a good game, it will make life much harder for RSL.
Prediction: It will be hard fought, but I think RSL can just get the win. I think it'll probably stay scoreless through halftime, but after the break I think RSL will improve and get a couple of goals. However, I do think Columbus might snag a late one to make things nervy.
RSL 2-1 Columbus
Lastly: Go RSL!