Columbus Crew SC (5-6-5) is looking to extend its unbeaten streak on Saturday when it visits Sandy, Utah to face Real Salt Lake (5-6-6), a side that has proven to be a quality opponent year-in and year-out.
In a competitive Western Conference, Real Salt Lake sits in eighth place with 21 points – only eight behind Vancouver Whitecaps FC and Seattle Sounders FC, who currently stand atop the West with 29 points each.
If there is a model of consistency in Major League Soccer, RSL is that paradigm. The Claret-and-Cobalt have reached the postseason in seven consecutive seasons, the longest active streak in the League, while the 2014 campaign marked their fifth-straight season with 50 or more points.
After winning the MLS Cup in 2009, RSL has kept up the pace, making a run to the CONCACAF Champions League finals in 2011, followed by another run to both the MLS Cup and U.S. Open Cup finals in 2013.
One key for Real’s consistency lies in its defense, most notably with goalkeeper Nick Rimando and holding midfielder Kyle Beckerman. Rimando has earned an MLS All-Star nod in four of his last five seasons with RSL, while Beckerman has made eight straight appearances in the All-Star game on behalf of Real. As current members of the USMNT, Rimando and Beckerman have accumulated 21 and 45 caps, respectively.
Real Salt Lake has had considerable success at home this season, going unbeaten in seven of eight games at Rio Tinto Stadium—good enough for a 3-1-4 home record. Meanwhile, the Claret-and-Cobalt have had mixed results against Eastern Conference teams, going 3-3-1 against teams east of the Mississippi River.
Crew SC holds the overall advantage between the two clubs, accruing a 10-5-2 record since 2005, when Real Salt Lake made its debut in Major League Soccer. However, the cards have fallen in RSL’s favor when it comes to playing at Rio Tinto Stadium, sporting a 4-3-1 home record against Columbus Crew SC.
Real Salt Lake’s goal-scoring tactics at home rely heavily on direct kicks, as almost one-third of RSL’s home goals have come from set pieces. Of the club’s 10 goals at home, three have come off of set pieces while five have come from open play. RSL has a 75 percent pass success rate this season, controlling possession at an even 50 percent through 17 games played.
The last time Crew SC played at Rio Tinto Stadium, RSL got the best of the Black & Gold, with a 4-0 victory on August 24, 2013 – Salt Lake's first win against Columbus in over three years.
This time around, RSL will be without defender Demar Phillips and co-leading goal scorer Javier Morales this Saturday, as both received a red card during Wednesday’s 1-0 loss against the New York Red Bulls.
Saturday’s match will be the only regular season meeting between the two clubs this season. Kickoff is set for 10:00 p.m. ET in Sandy, Utah.