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Match preview: RSL hosts short-handed Columbus Crew at Rio Tinto Stadium

Columbus Crew SC, missing about seven of their regular starters, will visit Rio Tinto Stadium as RSL looks to get their second-straight win, and their first win over the Crew in six years.

MLS: Sporting Kansas City at Real Salt Lake Jeff Swinger-USA TODAY Sports

Real Salt Lake welcomes Eastern Conference opponents Columbus Crew SC as they prepare to play eight of their next 12 matches at Rio Tinto Stadium.

History hasn’t been kind to RSL in the all-time series between these two clubs, as their last win against the Crew came at home in August of 2013 when they cruised to an easy 4-0 victory. Since then, they’ve gone 0W-2L-3D in five games against the black-and-yellow — the most recent match resulting in a 2-1 loss on the road in Columbus last June.

A year later, RSL will look to seek revenge and take all three points in front of their home crowd, followed by the annual fireworks show for Independence Day.

Real Salt Lake

Record: 7-8-2 (23 points)
Table: 8th place (west)
Points per game: 1.35
Most goals: Sam Johnson (7)
Most assists: Albert Rusnak (3), Damir Kreilach (3)
Clean sheets: 4
Form: WLLDW

MLS: Sporting Kansas City at Real Salt Lake Jeff Swinger-USA TODAY Sports

Their last five and their next 12

RSL has managed to snag seven points from their last five outings, including a point on the road in Chicago. The two losses in that stretch both also came on the road, with a 2-1 result in Montreal followed by the 4-0 drubbing at Red Bull Arena. However, if we take the stretch back to their past seven games, it looks a lot better as they’ve gone 4-2-1, good for 13 points.

Now staring straight down the barrel of a huge stretch of games at home — eight of their next 12 will be at Rio Tinto Stadium — RSL has a giant opportunity to rack up the points and climb the table. They already got the ball rolling (pun intended — #dadjokes) against Sporting Kansas City last weekend with a breezy 2-0 win over their Western Conference rivals. This week sees them playing double duty as they host Columbus on Wednesday followed by a trip to San Jose to take on the Earthquakes this weekend.

Sam Johnson doing his job

Whether you’re surprised or not as an RSL fan, Sam Johnson is officially the team’s leading scorer after notching a game-winning brace against SKC, bringing his season total up to seven goals. That’s not bad considering he’s only made 15 appearances for a total of 847 minutes, meaning he’s averaged a goal almost every two games — and one every 121 minutes. Stats are fun.

Chances are we’ll see him on the field this week after the impressive performance he put in at home last weekend, but I wouldn’t be surprised to see him get some rest in either game just to keep legs fresh.

Healthy(ish) roster

If you can believe it, RSL is pretty healthy and basically full strength heading into this week. Jefferson Savarino missed the SKC game after Venezuela was eliminated from Copa America the night before, but he should be back in action this week so we’ll see if Mike Petke decides to start him against Columbus or not. Kyle Beckerman will also be missing for the Columbus game due to yellow card accumulation, but other than that it looks like the only injuries plaguing the squad are Jordan Allen and Tony Beltran, who have both been out all season long anyway.

Absences

OUT: Jordan Allen (knee; out for season), Kyle Beckerman (yellow card accumulation)
DOUBTFUL: Tony Beltran (knee)
QUESTIONABLE: -none-
PROBABLE: -none-

Yellow Card Accumulation Warning

-none-

Projected lineup

Rimando; Herrera, Onuoha, Glad, Toia; Besler, Luiz; Savarino, Rusnak, Saucedo; Johnson

Columbus Crew SC

Record: 5-11-2 (17 points)
Table: 11th place (east)
Points per game: 0.94
Most goals: Gyasi Zardes (6)
Most assists: Federico Higuain (5)
Clean sheets: 4
Form: LLDLL

MLS: Sporting Kansas City at Columbus Crew SC Joe Maiorana-USA TODAY Sports

Rough go for the Crew

There’s really no way to sugarcoat it — Columbus is in a bad spot right now. It’s real bad. First off, they’re currently riding a six-game winless streak which consists of five losses and one draw. Sure, they got one win seven games ago — a 3-1 victory at home over the Galaxy — but they also lost five straight just before that. That’s good for a 1-10-1 record in their last 12 outings, and it doesn’t look like it’s getting better anytime soon.

The Crew just took a huge hit in goal as star goalkeeper Zack Steffen just inked a deal with Manchester City in England, and is set to join up with his new club after he’s finished with the US Men’s National Team in Gold Cup play.

Decimated lineups

Columbus is also missing a couple more big pieces in their leading scorer Gyasi Zardes and midfielder Wil Trapp as they’re both out with the USMNT as well. Defender Jonathan Mensah is also currently out with Ghana for the Africa Cup of Nations, while Federico Higuain, David Accam, Josh Williams, and Milton Valenzuela are all out with injuries of their own.

That’s a giant chunk of their team missing for this game, which only bodes well for RSL.

Jon Kempin has stepped in for Steffen in his absence and looks to be the one to take his spot permanently, though he hasn’t been able to help the Crew get a win in the three games he’s played this season.

Absences

OUT: Milton Valenzuela (torn ACL), Federico Higuain (ACL, out for season), Josh Williams (foot), David Accam (hamstring), Gyasi Zardes (int’l duty), Wil Trapp (int’l duty), Jonathan Mensah (int’l duty)
DOUBTFUL: -none-
QUESTIONABLE: -none-
PROBABLE: -none-

Yellow Card Accumulation Warning

-none-

Projected lineup

Kempin; Jimenez, Crognale, Sauro, Francis; Guzman, Artur; Argudo, Santos, Robinho; JJ Williams


Match info

When: Wednesday, July 3, 8:00PM MT

Where: Rio Tinto Stadium — Sandy, UT

Weather: 86 degrees, mostly cloudy

Broadcast: KMYU, KSL TV app (streaming), ESPN+ (streaming), ESPN700 (radio), 107.1 FM (Spanish radio)

Referee: Victor Rivas