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Real Salt Lake vs. Columbus Crew: three questions with Massive Report

The fine people at Massive Report give us some insight into the Crew

MLS: Real Salt Lake at Columbus Crew SC Aaron Doster-USA TODAY Sports

Real Salt Lake host the Columbus Crew in a midweek game. RSL are coming off a 2-0 win over Sporting KC, but the Crew are winless in their last six. We reached out to Massive Report to get an update on the O.G. Ohio team.

The Crew has struggled in the first half of the season — what are the main issues the team has faced to leave them 11th in the east? How do you rate Caleb Porter’s performance in his time as head coach?

It’s been much different than anyone here expected. While there were thought that there would be a transition from Gregg Berhalter to Caleb Porter, everyone assumed, because they play a similar style, Porter would be able to pick up where Berhalter left off. That has obviously not been the case.

A big issue has been injuries. This team’s depth, or lack thereof, has been exposed. The team started the year 4-0-1 but then international call-ups led to the first loss of the year. Then the injury bug hit and the team hasn’t been right since. The lineups have been rather makeshift and it’s led to a very poor run of form. Once the losing started, I think it compounded and not it’s gotten into the team’s head.

It also doesn’t help that this wasn’t a good offense, even dating back to last year. When you aren’t scoring regularly, that puts more pressure on the defense. That group was playing well early in the year but losing Harrison, Waylon Francis, Zack Steffen and Jonathan Mensah for periods of time has not helped.

All of that has added up to some of the losses, but others have been hard to explain. It’s been a weird year.

As for Porter, there are some members of the fanbase calling for his head. I think it’s far too early for that. The team didn’t have an offseason due to the sale to new ownership not going through until January. He needs time to get his players in and build the group he wants. Porter’s been successful everywhere he’s been. I don’t know why that would change now.

Gyasi Zardes is the team’s top goal scorer this season, who has filled his shoes while he’s with the US for the Gold Cup?

Unfortunately, no one. In the two U.S. Open Cup games, David Accam began to find his scoring form but he is now out injured. Since the team returned to MLS play, they’ve been shutout in back-to-back games at home. Porter tried journeyman Patrick Mullins to no avail before last week giving a first career start to rookie JJ Williams out of Kentucky. Since those two weren’t scoring, the Crew traded for Romario Williams from Atlanta United today, but he won’t be with the group until July 9.

Last year, Zardes was the main source of goals. This year has been the same, but there’s a lack of Federico Higuain to help get him in scoring positions.

RSL are coming off a win at home, but had a draw and two losses before that game and have been vulnerable at home. What will Columbus need to do to prevent the home side from scoring?

Stop the silly mistakes. In each of the last two MLS games since returning from the Gold Cup break, the Crew has played well defensively. Unfortunately, one slight mistake in the back has led to three goals. Last weekend against Orlando, the Black & Gold held City to three shots. Somehow they scored two goals. If they can stop those mistakes, or at least not let RSL finish on the few that happen, they might be able to get something out of this one.

Bonus question: now that the Crew has officially been saved, are there any lingering non-soccer issues facing the team or has it been a return to normalcy under new ownership?

There’s still plenty of work to do. Anthony Precourt and his group left this organization in near ruins after not doing much of anything the past few years. The team is still trying to build a front office in order to get the word out that there’s still a team in town. Even simple fixes at the stadium (there were bathrooms without working lights at the beginning of the year) had to be dealt with. And that’s all on trying to fix the team on the field and get the land secured for the new downtown stadium. It’s been quite the debacle.