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Real Salt Lake vs. Columbus Crew: what we’re watching and how to watch

RSL host a struggling Columbus team who have been decimated by injuries and international call ups

Lucas Muller | RSL Soapbox

Real Salt Lake defeated Sporting Kansas City on Saturday, host the Columbus Crew tonight, and finish off their week with a Saturday game in San Jose. RSL are ahead of the Crew on points and, well, Columbus have been struggling this season. Real are looking good after a road point in Chicago and a decisive victory at home. Frankly, they should beat the Crew. Columbus has a massive injury list and several players away with international duty, so it’s a good chance to gain all three points.

Sam.

Sam Johnson scored a brace on Saturday! Seeing the Liberian forward get a pair of goals was extremely satisfying. It’s been four years since Sabo was traded to DC United and Johnson might be the first player since that move to be a consistent center forward.

As he’s grown into the squad, you can see a better understanding between himself and his teammates. He’s getting better service, even if that service is unintentional (i.e. taking the ball off Kreilach for his second goal). It’s a busy stretch, though. The team will play three matches in about a week, so we could see rotation but I think Sam gets the start again. He’s earned it and you shouldn’t sit a striker when they’re hot. Watch how Johnson plays the point of attack role and what he does differently than other RSL strikers in recent years.

Albert.

Real Salt Lake’s best player is still Albert Rusnak, even if he hasn’t had a lights out season so far. His play on the wing on Saturday was a pleasant surprise and it seemed to bring fresh energy to the Slovakian international. Rusnak on the wing has been tried for RSL in the past, but was never met with the success we’ve seen with winger Rusnak for Slovakia. Last weekend was different. He played extremely well in the spot and with Damir in the 10, it felt like the front four where all utilized in a highly effective way. My guess is that Petke will want to keep the same lineup since it worked so well, sans Beckerman missing the game due to yellow card accumulation. Pay extra attention to Rusnak and how he’s able to contribute from that right side.

Plans.

I attended training last Friday and the team ended their practice by working on set pieces. The first goal against SKC was almost exactly what they practiced on Friday. It’s a mark of success if you can work on something in training and execute it the same with in a game to get a goal. I have not been able to attend training this week, so I don’t have any insights to offer if they’ve done something new for tonight, but if you see something unique like that first goal, there’s a good chance that was planned. In my mind, that goal is a good mark of growth for both the team and Mike Petke’s coaching repertoire.

Injury report

Out:

Allen (knee 6/16/17; Season Ending)

Doubtful:

Beltran(knee 3/15/19)

Yellow card accumulation:

Kyle Beckerman

Predicted line up