After an away match in Portland and hosting much-disliked Sporting Kansas City, this match against Columbus Crew feels calmer all around. Real Salt Lake have had a whole week to rest after playing three games in the previous week, plus Beckerman is back from red card suspension.
The Crew are missing some key players in Jonathan Mensah and Lalas Abubakar, which could work to RSL’s benefit, but their attack is not to be dismissed. There isn’t the same level of animosity between these teams or fanbases as with SKC or the Timbers, but this is an important match for Real to extend their unbeaten run and make Rio Tinto a fortress once again. Columbus are sitting just above the playoff line, and RSL will hope to gain three points at home.
Advances in Attack
The questions around Yura Movsisyan continue to swirl. He hasn’t seen minutes with the team in several weeks, and it’s unclear if he’ll play this game or not. He was dealing with a hip issue last week. Yura has six goals this year, and Albert Rusnak and Joao Plata are both sitting on 5 goals. If Yura doesn’t start this game, it’s not hard to envision that one of these players tie or passes Yura for top goalscorer. Only time will tell, but watching the combination between Rusnak, Plata, Jefferson Savarino, and Luis Silva has been a lot of fun the past few weeks. And watching players have fun while attacking is a welcome change for this team.
With Demar Phillips listed as questionable on the injury report (hamstring), we’re likely to see Acosta in left back again. We’re seeing some exciting runs between our outside backs and wingers. With solid players in the center back role, this allows for more freedom for our outside backs to get up the wings. There have been quite a few times where we see Tony Beltran almost to the end-line (don’t forget his shot that was only a foot wide against Portland). This allows for more attacking options and puts more pressure on the opposition defense. I’m curious how often and how far we see these guys get up field, and what they can contribute to the attack.
Mike Petke is frickin’ suspended
Head coach Mike Petke is, unsurprisingly, suspended from this match. This comes after being ejected from last Saturday’s game against Sporting Kansas City when he was protesting a missed call. Petke’s actions during the match and his post-match press conference have cemented him as a hero to the RSL faithful. The suspension means that Freddy Juarez will likely be holding the reigns during Saturday’s match. Watch how Freddy commands his team from the sideline, what kind of subs are made, and what his post-match press conference is like. I’m also curious if there is any clear Petke support from the fans at Rio Tinto Stadium during the game.