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Match preview: Real Salt Lake vs. Columbus Crew SC

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4th-place RSL looks to improve on the road against a Crew side who is winless in their last 5.

MLS: San Jose Earthquakes at Real Salt Lake Jeff Swinger-USA TODAY Sports

After a disappointing 1-1 draw with the San Jose Earthquakes last week, Real Salt Lake will travel to Ohio to take on Columbus Crew SC as we reach the halfway point of the regular MLS season.

The Crew have a commanding lead in the all-time series with RSL, boasting 11W-5L-4D throughout it’s 20-game history in the regular season. Eight of those 11 wins were earned at home.

However, RSL has the Crew’s number in knockout competition play, going undefeated in all four of their matches in tournament play, with two wins in the 2009 MLS Playoffs and a win and a draw in the 2011 CONCACAF Champions League knockout stages.

Real Salt Lake

Record: 7-7-2 (23 points)
Table: 4th place (west), 9th place (overall)
Points per game: 1.44 (10th in MLS)
Most goals: Corey Baird (4)
Most assists: Damir Kreilach (4)
Clean sheets: 4
Form: WWWLD

MLS: San Jose Earthquakes at Real Salt Lake Jeff Swinger-USA TODAY Sports

With all of their ups and downs, Real Salt Lake really find themselves in a great spot. Fourth place in the Western Conference and half of the season still to go, there’s plenty of time for Mike Petke and the boys to turn this team around. Though they’re winless in two, they just came off of a three-game winning streak in which they outscored their opponents 5-1, before dropping a 3-0 result in LA against the Galaxy, followed by a 1-1 draw at home against last-place San Jose.

A chance to improve on the road

RSL hasn’t been a strong team away from home, winning only one of their last 12 on the road. That lone win came in the form of a 1-0 victory over the Seattle Sounders back in May. Now is the perfect opportunity to build on that and grab another road win, especially against a team who is winless in their last five — but more on that in a minute.

Lineup decisions

With Alfredo Ortuño looking like he’s on his way out, and rumors of Luis Silva being a target for Chivas, the central attacking options are looking pretty thin. Corey Baird has still been solid and has clearly won the starting role, making the starting XI in 10 of the last 12 games, while making 14 appearances overall this season. He’s also managed to grab the title of the team’s leading scorer this season with four goals, and he shows no signs of stopping. There’s no reason he shouldn’t be expected to start this weekend in Columbus, either.

While Joao Plata is still listed as questionable with a back injury, it might be safe to say that Sebastian Saucedo will get the starting spot on the wing, where he’s been making a solid case as to why he should be the preferred starter.

Columbus Crew SC

Record: 7-5-6 (27 points)
Table: 4th place (east), 7th place (overall)
Points per game: 1.50 (8th in MLS)
Most goals: Gyasi Zardes (10)
Most assists: Federico Higuain (7)
Clean sheets: 7
Form: DDDLL

MLS: Columbus Crew at Los Angeles FC Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

The acquisition of Gyasi Zardes this season has been a saving grace for Columbus, as the former LA Galaxy star has already scored 10 goals in the first half of the season, which is well on pace to beat Ola Kamara’s 18 goals in Columbus last year. The Crew traded Kamara for Zardes in January of this year, while the Galaxy hoped to make a giant turn-around after one of their worst seasons to date in 2017. Kamara has scored six goals on the year so far for the Galaxy.

No wins to be found

While Columbus got off to a relatively good start this year, going 7-3-3 in their first 13 games, they’re currently on a five-game winless skid that started with three draws and two losses in a row. The extra good news? Three of those five games have come at home. Their last home outing was a 2-0 defeat at the hands of Atlanta United, followed by a 2-0 road loss to LAFC.

It’s safe to say that they’ll be looking for redemption as RSL rolls into town, but it won’t be easy for the Ohio side.

They’ll be missing two of their most important players in defense, as goalkeeper Zack Steffen is out with a knee injury, and defender Milton Valenzuela will serve a one-game suspension due to yellow card accumulation.

Star midfielder Federico Higuain is also on a yellow card warning, so if he were to get a card this weekend, he’ll have to miss the Crew’s next game as well. That bodes well for RSL as it could point to a somewhat muted performance from Pipa, who has four goals and seven assists on the season.


Absences

Real Salt Lake
OUT: Tony Beltran (knee), Jordan Allen (knee), Alex Horwath (achilles surgery), Shawn Barry (knee), Demar Phillips (ankle), David Horst (torn achilles)
QUESTIONABLE: Joao Plata (back), Luke Mulholland (back)

Columbus Crew SC
OUT: Zack Steffen (knee), Josh Williams (concussion), Milton Valenzuela (suspension)
QUESTIONABLE: Mohammed Abu (thigh)

Expected lineups

RSL: Rimando; Lennon, M Silva, Glad, Acosta; Kreilach, Beckerman; Savarino, Rusnak, Saucedo; Baird

CLB: Kempin; Afful, Mensah, Abubakar, Jimenez; Trapp, Artur; Santos, Higuain, Argudo; Zardes

Match info

When: Saturday, June 30, 5:30PM MT

Where: MAPRFE Stadium — Columbus, OH

Weather: 90 degrees, clear

Broadcast: KMYU, KSL TV app (streaming), ESPN+ (streaming), ESPN700 (radio)

Referee: Drew Fischer