Preview: Crew vs. RSL
Real Salt Lake (10-4-6, 2nd in the West) vs. Columbus Crew (11-4-4, 1st in the East)
All-time series: Columbus leads 7-3-1
ONN-TV, MLS Direct Kick, Matchday Live
Two of the top teams in the league this season, both proponents of an attacking style, come together at Rio Tinto Stadium with position and pride on the line in light of the weekend's other 1-v-2 matchup between New York and LA.
Columbus hosted RSL in April and came away with a 1-0 victory, thanks to a Guillermo Barros Schelotto penalty kick. That win helped to avenge the loss that Columbus suffered at the hands of RSL during the 2009 playoffs.
Both sides have CONCACAF Champions League matches scheduled for this coming week, and their approach to the league match will likely be impacted by that fact. Will they rest some of their regulars regardless of the match's high profile?
Real Salt Lake are coming off a midweek draw against Philadelphia in which coach Jason Kreis rested several key starters, including Kyle Beckerman, Jamison Olave, Nick Rimando, Will Johnson and Robbie Findley. The club have stated the importance of this week's CCL match, and the rest was an attempt to balance the exertion during a 3-games-in-6-days stretch.
However, RSL are riding a 20-game undefeated streak at Rio Tinto. The all-time home unbeaten record is 22 games set by the Crew.
Columbus are suffering from several important injuries, including midfielders Robbie Rogers, Adam Moffatt, and Eddie Gaven, plus defensive stalwart Chad Marshall has a knock as well. But the Crew have had 10 days off, and they have always had good depth, besides, as evidenced by their 2-1 win over Philadelphia last time out, when a largely reserve side came out on top.
It’s possible that coach Robert Warzycha debut his newest weapon, striker Andrés Mendoza; however, the form of forward Stephen Lenhart, scorer of two goals against the Union, will be the key to the attack.
Also looking good is forward Emilio Renteria, who set up one of Lenhart's goals and has shown an ability to get behind the defense in recent weeks. With Schelotto playing in a more withdrawn position, Renteria and Lenhart have that much more room to float into the space behind the backline.
Heroes & Villains
Javier Morales vs. Guillermo Barros Schelotto. The fellow Argentines teamed up at the MLS All-Star Game in Houston just a couple of weeks ago, but they will battle head to head in this one. Whichever can find the space to dictate the rhythm of the game in the first 15 minutes should propel his team to victory.
Stat that makes you go “Hmm"
Three of the Crew’s 11 victories this season have come on the road, however, none of those have come at the expense of Western Conference opponents.