>Monday Lunch: Real Salt Lake vs. Columbus Crew Preview

Posted: February 21, 2011 in mls
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By Evan Ream

Tomorrow, the CONCACAF Champions League quarterfinals kick off with both of the remaining MLS teams facing each other in the first of a two game aggregate series. While most MLS teams are still in preseason, this will give us an exciting look into the 2011 season with two teams that seem to be going in opposite directions. Both teams will be looking to be the first MLS team to make the semifinals of the CCL since its new format began in 2008.

 

I am going to keep both team previews relatively brief as I have more in depth MLS previews starting on Friday this week, but here are five things you should know about this match-up:

1. Both teams have only been playing games for less than three weeks

RSL started their preseason on the first of this month while Columbus started on the fifth. Expect some sloppy play from both sides as they are obviously nowhere near mid-season form if they are even match fit. Both teams still don’t know who their best 11 players are and thus we could see drastically different lineups in both legs, more so with Columbus than Salt Lake as RSL kept their core from last year intact.

 

2. Real Salt Lake take this tournament very seriously

Last year, Salt Lake became the first MLS team to ever win a CONCACAF Champions League group, possibly sacrificing their performance in the MLS regular season as a result. Head coach Jason Kreis stated in this sweet behind the scenes video that winning the Champions League is a priority, and the players seem to have bought into that. I don’t know how seriously Columbus are taking this tournament, as their roster overhaul might be too much for them to ask to treat this game more than just two preseason games…speaking of which…

 

3. Columbus are a team in transition

20 Octoboer 2007: Columbus's Guillermo Barros Schelotto (ARG).  The Columbus Crew defeated DC United 3-2 at RFK Stadium in Washington, DC in a Major League Soccer 2007 regular season game.Though no one will tell you, this is a rebuilding year in Ohio. Columbus lost the likes of team MVP Guillermo Barros Schelotto, starting forward Stephen Lenhart, captain and starting right back Frankie Hejduk, and starting central midfielder Brian Carroll. Columbus did sign the aging but able Jeff Cunningham, but he remains the only major acquisition to a team that must have its role players from last year step up.

 

4. Columbus have been hit by the injury bug

Columbus are a severely weakened squad right now. In addition to losing all those key players from last year, they are dealing with injuries to Eddie Gaven, Danny O’Rourke, Shaun Francis, and Dilly Duka as well as injuries to their top two keepers William Hesmer and Andy Gruenenbaum. These last two injuries have forced them to sign Ray Burse to an emergency contract just to field a starter for this game. Burse is extremely athletic, but extremely error prone and equally as bad at positioning.

 

5. Outlook

This should be a cake walk for RSL as they look to advance into uncharted territory for an MLS side. Although key players Javier Morales and Alvaro Saborio may not be able to play in this leg, RSL have enough quality players to make that point moot. It is never easy to play at another’s home, but I think that RSL will be able to soundly win both legs due to having more quality players and taking the tournament more seriously.

 

Prediction 1st Leg: Real Salt Lake 2 Columbus Crew 0

Prediction 2nd Leg: Real Salt Lake 3 Columbus Crew 1

Aggregate: Real Salt Lake 5 Columbus Crew 1

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