Preview: Crew host rebounding RSL for midweek clash

Columbus Crew vs. Real Salt Lake

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COLUMBUS CREW STADIUM, Columbus, Ohio
7:30 p.m. ET (ONN; KMYU 2.2)
June 8, 2011 (WEEK 13; MLS Game 118)

Real Salt Lake kick off a two-game Eastern swing by paying a visit to the Columbus Crew when the clubs face off Wednesday at Crew Stadium. The Crew are starting a two-game homestand of their own, coming back for a second draw in a row in a 1-1 result at New York last weekend. After seeing their two-year league home unbeaten streak come to an end, RSL returned to their winning ways in Sandy last weekend with a 2-0 win against Vancouver.

DOWNLOAD: Full game guide

REFEREE: Ricardo Salazar. SAR (bench): Corey Rockwell; JAR (opposite): Frank Anderson; 4th: Fotis Bazakos
MLS Career: 131 games; FC/gm: 26.9; Y/gm: 3.5; R: 40; pens: 49

INJURY REPORT: COLUMBUS CREW  —  OUT: DF Josh Williams (R hip labral tear); FW Santiago Prim (R ankle sprain); FW Emilio Renteria (L quad strain); MF Leandro Griffit (abdominal strain); MF Danny O'Rourke (L knee surgery); DOUBTFUL: FW Bernardo Anor (L ankle sprain)  ...  REAL SALT LAKE  —  OUT: MF Javier Morales (L ankle fracture dislocation); FW Paulo Jr. (R hip flexor strain); QUESTIONABLE: DF Robbie Russell (L hamstring strain); PROBABLE: MF Collen Warner (L ankle sprain)

INTERNATIONAL ABSENCES: CLB: Robbie Rogers (USA)  ...  RSL: Alvaro Saborio (Costa Rica); Arturo Alvarez (El Salvador); Will Johnson (Canada)
SUSPENDED: none
WARNINGS: SUSPENDED NEXT YELLOW CARD: CLB: Julius James ... SUSPENDED AFTER TWO YELLOW CARDS: CLB: Kevin Burns, Emmanuel Ekpo

HEAD-TO-HEAD
ALL-TIME (12 meetings): Crew 7 wins, 16 goals  ...  Real 4 wins, 12 goals  ...  Ties 1
AT COLUMBUS (6 meetings): Crew 5 wins, 12 goals  ...  Real 1 win, 3 goals  ...  Ties 0
RETURN MATCH: 7/30: Real Salt Lake vs. Columbus Crew, 7 p.m. MT

LAST YEAR (MLS):
4/24: CLB 1, RSL 0 (Barros Schelotto 38)
8/14: RSL 2, CLB 0 (Morales 11, 60)
•    The Crew have won the last four meetings between the teams at Crew Stadium in league play. But Real did win in Columbus in the 2009 Eastern Conference Semifinals on their way to victory in MLS Cup.
•    The Crew last won at Real Salt Lake in 2006, a 1-0 win at Rice-Eccles Stadium. RSL has won the last three home meetings between the clubs. Columbus has never won in three trips all-time to Rio Tinto Stadium in league and MLS Cup play.
•    Coaches record: Robert Warzycha v RSL: P5 W3 L2 D0 ...  Jason Kreis vs. CLB: P7 W3 L4 D0

COLUMBUS CREW

The Columbus Crew saw their winless streak stretched to five games, but came back for a dramatic second consecutive draw, in a 1-1 tie with the New York Red Bulls on Saturday evening at Red Bull Arena. The Crew have 15 points from 12 games on the season, starting the week in a tie for fourth place in the Eastern Conference.

LAST MATCH
•    The Red Bulls opened the scoring after just nine minutes. Collecting a long ball from Jan Gunnar Solli, Luke Rodgers spun away from a couple of defenders before laying the ball square to Mehdi Ballouchy, who chipped a shot past hard-charging Crew goalkeeper William Hesmer.
•    But two minutes into stoppage time, Crew rookie Justin Meram raced New York right back Matt Kassel and found fellow rookie Rich Balchan making a hard run into the box, and he then fired home a shot past a helpless Greg Sutton for the equalizer.
•    Crew head coach Robert Warzycha made one change to the team that settled for a 3-3 draw with Chivas USA at Columbus Crew Stadium. Dilly Duka replaced Robbie Rogers, away on international duty.
•    COLUMBUS CREW (4-1-3-2): William Hesmer - Sebastian Miranda, Chad Marshall, Julius James, Josh Gardner (Shaun Francis 86) - Rich Balchan - Eddie Gaven, Emmanuel Ekpo, Dilly Duka (Justin Meram 74) - Tommy Heinemann (Jeff Cunningham 41), Andres Mendoza.

TEAM NEWS
•    The RSL match starts a two-game week with both games at Crew Stadium. The Crew are 0-2-3 in their last five matches, have not won since April 30, and are now 0-3-3 with three goals scored and nine allowed away from home.
•    "I think we played well enough to deserve a point," Warzycha said. "I think we were a good attacking team. I think we were going for the goal."
•    The winning goal came in a pair of rookies who played in the Big Ten Conference who were drafted in the first round of the 2011 MLS SuperDraft  —  Rich Balchan (Indiana University, No. 12 overall) and Justin Meram (University of Michigan, No. 15 overall).
•    Balchan was making his first start in a defensive midfield role after starting 10 of the Crew's first 11 games at left back. His goal came on his first career shot in MLS, after 990 minutes.
•    "It's all just instinctive," Balchan said. "The ball was perfectly put onto my foot. I just kind of opened my foot up. I don't do much finishing in practice. I don't know what happened. I just know it went in."
•    Meram was supposed to replace Balchan in the 74th minute, but when midfielder Dilly Duka suffered a sprained ankle, he could not continue. Duka could miss the RSL match as a result.
•     "I sprained it in the first 10 minutes of the game," Duka said. "I saw a sub coming and I think they were going to push me into the middle so I told Bobby I had to come out. I knew I couldn't contribute anymore. I knew I couldn't track on defense and couldn't do anything on offense because my ankle swelled up. It's huge."
•    In addition, starting forward Tommy Heinemann left in the first half with a left hamstring injury, replaced by Jeff Cunningham.
•    After scoring two goals the week before, Andres Mendoza could not find the back of the net from two good chances in the second half vs. New York. "We have to look at the positive," Warzycha said. "He's in the right place at the right time. Obviously, finishing is another (matter), but at least he's getting chances."

REAL SALT LAKE
Real Salt Lake returned to their winning ways, defeating Vancouver Whitecaps FC 2-0 on Saturday evening at Rio Tinto Stadium. RSL starts the week sitting in fourth place in the Western Conference, with 20 points from 10 matches.

LAST MATCH

  • Real took the lead after 32 minutes. Kyle Beckerman threaded a pass to Jean Alexandre, just beating the
  • offside trap, and the Haitian held off a couple of defenders before cutting toward goal and lifting a shot over
  • Whitecaps FC 'keeper Joe Cannon
  • Then in the 79th minute, Alexandre evaded a midfield challenge and flicked it into space for Fabian Espíndola, who raced onto the pass then finished clinically from inside the area, putting a low shot into the right side of the net.
  • RSL coach Jason Kreis made four changes to the side that fell 2-1 to Seattle Sounders FC at Rio Tinto Stadium. Chris Schuler and Chris Wingert came into the back four for the suspended Jamison Olave and Robbie Russell, and Collen Warner and Nelson Gonzalez started in midfield for Andy Williams and Will Johnson.
  • REAL SALT LAKE (4-4-2): Nick Rimando - Tony Beltran, Chris Schuler, Nat Borchers, Chris Wingert – Collen Warner (Artur Aghasyan 87), Ned Grabavoy, Kyle Beckerman, Nelson Gonzalez (Andy Williams 67) – Jean Alexandre (Luis Gil 81), Fabian Espindola.

TEAM NEWS

  • Real put an end to their three-game MLS winless run and scored two goals in a game for the first time since a 2-0 win April 9 vs. New England. RSL had scored just three goals total in their previous six league matches; they outshot Vancouver 24-6 on the night.
  • “We have to work that hard if we want to win games,” Kreis said. “When we don’t work that hard, we won’t win games. And when we do work that hard, we’ll win most of them.”
  • With RSL hampered by a host of injuries to strikers, Jean Alexandre started a second consecutive match at forward and scored his first professional goal and added his first MLS assist. He was named MLS Player of the Week.
  • “I’ve been dreaming about my first goal, and in my mind, it’s always like a scrappy ball that hits me off the head and goes in the net,” Alexandre said. “Actually, it was a decent goal, so I’m happy for that.”
  • Alexandre has been a holding midfielder for the vast majority of his time as a professional, until the start up top in the 2-1 loss to Seattle.
  • "That was a world class pass, that took me by surprise, it took everybody by surprise ‘cause that pass was very difficult pass [for Kyle Beckerman] to make," said Alexandre. "I need a lot more work, especially my movement. I've got to get use to making runs instead of just shuffling back and forth for the ball like I'm playing center mid."
  • Missing as many as seven regulars because of injury, suspension and national team duty, RSL had only six available substitutes, one short of the prescribed limit.
  • “After losing to Seattle last weekend, we knew we had something to prove this weekend,” defender Nat Borchers said. “We knew we had to come out and prove ourselves again to the fans, make a statement to the league and get those three points.”
  • Armenian forward Artur Aghasyan, the cousin of former RSL forward Yura Movsisyan, made his MLS debut, playing the final three minutes after signing with the club on May 27.
  • Alexandre’s strike partner, Fabian Espíndola, scored his second goal of the MLS season and first since April 13. He’s made back-to-back starts after completely missing the two previous league games.
  • “It was very gratifying to see (Espíndola get the goal). In the last two games, the ground that he has covered and the balls that he has chased down … he’s taking a few more risks than typical,” Kreis said. “I think he’s doing that because he knows that someone has to make a difference for us right now and he is trying to be that guy that will do it.”