Scouting Report: Real Salt Lake
Expect fireworks on and off the field Saturday night as the Crew hosts Real Salt Lake for Red, White, and Crew with a fireworks display to take place after the game. Here are some things to help get you acquainted with the Black & Gold's next opponent:
After sitting on top of the MLS Western Conference table, Real Salt Lake dropped six points at home last week with a midweek 3-2 loss to the LA Galaxy and a 2-1 defeat to the San Jose Earthquakes over the weekend at Rio Tinto Stadium. The Claret and Cobalt saw a two goal lead disappear last Wednesday following Mike McGee's equalizer in the 50th minute. LA's Landon Donovan netted the game winner and his second tally of the match in the 68th minute to claim victory over RSL.
Against San Jose, RSL fell victim to Major League Soccer's leading scorer Chris Wondolowski as the striker beat Salt Lake goalkeeper Nick Rimando in the 84th minutes to take three points from Rio Tinto Stadium.
2011 MLS Defender of the Year Jámison Olave missed the weekend fixture against the Earthquakes with a calf strain after leaving in the 64th minute against LA, and could miss this weekend's match against the Crew.
While strikers Álvaro Saborío and Fabián Espíndola have accounted for 13 goals in 2012, it has been RSL's midfield of US national teamer Kyle Beckerman, Canadian international Will Johnson, Ned Grabavoy, and Javier Morales that pulls the strings for Salt Lake. Beckerman has four goals this season out of his position as a defensive midfielder while Johnson and Grabavoy have given teams trouble on the wings. Returning from a horrific leg injury suffered last season, RSL's playmaker Morales has returned to the midfield to contribute two goals and three assists in seven starts this season. Off the bench, Jonny Steele and 18-year-old Luis Gil have provided depth to Salt Lake's midfield attack to combine for three goals and three assists.
A DIFFERENT KIND OF RIVALRY
Though 1,700 miles separate the two teams, the Crew and Real Salt Lake have quite a unique rivalry. The Black & Gold have lost just once at Crew Stadium in MLS play since the league added RSL in 2005. However, the Claret and Cobalt bested the Crew 3-2 in Columbus on its way to winning MLS Cup 2009 and the two sides drew 0-0 in the first leg of the 2011 CONCACAF Champions League quarterinals.
In that 2011 quarterfinal, tempers flared between the Crew's Emilio Rentería and RSL center back Nat Borchers as both were sent off for violent conduct against each other. To add to the rivalry, Salt Lake head coach Jason Kreis complained about the condition of the Crew Stadium field on the 26 degree night in February of last year. Kreis likely won't have much to complain about this weekend as temperatures in the 90s are expected in Columbus on Saturday.