Real Salt Lake vs. Columbus Crew SC | 2017 MLS Match Preview

Luis Silva - Real Salt Lake - close-up

Real Salt Lake vs. Columbus Crew SC
2017 MLS Regular Season
Rio Tinto Stadium – Sandy, Utah
Saturday, July 29 – 8 pm ET

It's a cross-conference clash between two teams fighting to be above the playoff line, as Real Salt Lake host Columbus Crew SC on Saturday night. The teams enter the match with a few notable factors in common.

Both sides will be shorthanded in one way or another, as RSL head coach Mike Petke is suspended for the game after being ejected in their 1-1 draw against Sporting KC at the weekend, with his postgame press conference drawing considerable attention around the league and beyond. Crew SC, meanwhile, will be without two of their central defenders, Jonathan Mensah and Lalas Abubakar, after both were sent off in a 3-0 road loss to Philadelphia on Wednesday.

Each of these teams has had inconsistent form this season, and while Columbus seem better poised to actually qualify for the MLS Cup Playoffs at this point, RSL is in better form lately. What will that mean on the field? That remains to be seen.

Real Salt Lake

Petke's visual aid-assisted press conference last weekend was the talk of MLS, but even with the draw, RSL appear to have already turned a corner in their season. Now three games unbeaten, the team appears to be settling into a groove on both sides of the ball.

A new addition, Uruguayan defender Marcelo Silva, had a solid debut for Real Salt Lake against Sporting. Although he was responsible for the penalty Kansas City picked up in the game, his composure and positioning showed considerable promise for the games ahead.

“Aside from the penalty and one or two other things, Marcelo is everything we wanted him to be,” Petke said about Silva's debut. “I have dealt with players coming over from a different league and perhaps it’s officiated differently, perhaps the standard as far as how much you can get in aggressively is different. It’s going to take a little while, but otherwise I think Marcelo did very well.”

At the moment, RSL are three points below the playoff line. A win over a battered Crew SC could continue their unbeaten run, and make those who thought their season was a lost cause question that perception as they hang around in the Western Conference standings.

  • Suspended: Mike Petke
  • International Duty: None
  • Injury Report: OUT: F Chad Barrett (knee), F Jordan Allen (knee), M Omar Holness (knee), F Ricardo Velazco (ankle), G Matt VanOekel (ankle); D Demar Phillips (hamstring)

Projected Starting Lineup (4-2-3-1, right to left): Nick Rimando – Tony Beltran, Marcelo Silva, Justen Glad, Danilo Acosta – Sunny, Kyle Beckerman – Joao Plata, Albert Rusnak, Jefferson Savarino – Luis Silva

Notes: Real Salt Lake have only beaten Crew SC once in seven regular season games since the start of the 2011 season (1-4-2). The two teams battled to a 2-2 draw on June 27th, 2015 in the last MLS game they played in Salt Lake City...Joao Plata and Albert Rusnak lead MLS with 16 chances created in the month of July.

Columbus Crew SC

Columbus' topsy-turvy season took another turn on Wednesday in their defeat against the Union. The loss came after a 1-0 win over Philadelphia at the weekend. But the Union dominated midweek, and Crew SC were well behind the pace, before Mensah and Abubakar left them with nine men to finish the game.

With Mensah and Abubakar out, barring an official appeal and suspension being overturned, Gregg Berhalter's options look rather limited in the back. Alex Crognale will most likely start again, although the rookie's misplayed clearance led to the first goal on Wednesday. Josh Williams is probably the best bet to slide in at center back alongside Crognale, but it's unclear if Berhalter will opt to keep a three-CB set or reduce it to a two-man central pairing considering the circumstances. Considering he's moved back and forth between the two systems throughout the season, making the switch will likely not be a big burden for the defense.

Either way, it may be a matter of Crew SC making the most of the players available in Utah, and just going for it. Sometimes, that's enough to catch an opponent off-guard and pick up a win.

  • Suspended: Jonathan Mensah (red card), Lalas Abubakar (red card)
  • International Duty: None
  • Injury Report: OUT: D Gaston Sauro (left PCL surgery), M Ben Swanson (right ankle surgery), M Federico Higuain (right knee sprain); QUESTIONABLE: D Harrison Afful (right thigh strain)

Projected Starting Lineup (4-2-3-1, left to right): Zack Steffen – Jukka Raitala, Alex Crognale, Josh Williams, Harrison Afful – Wil Trapp, Artur – Justin Meram, Kekuta Manneh, Ethan Finlay – Ola Kamara

Notes: The Crew have conceded multiple goals in seven of their last eight away games (2-6-0). They have allowed an average of 2.4 goals over that span...Columbus is the third team to have two players sent off in the same game this season.

All-Time Series

This is the first meeting between the teams. Last year, Crew SC won 4-3 with Ola Kamara scoring a hat trick.

  • Overall: Real Salt Lake 5W-11L-34D (23 GF/29 GA); Columbus 11W-5L-3D (29 GF/23 GA)
  • At RSL: Real Salt Lake 4W-3L-2D (15 GF/8 GA); Columbus 3W-4L-2D (8 GF/15 GA)


  • Referee: Kevin Stott
  • Assistant Referees: Brian Poeschel, TJ Zablocki
  • Fourth Official: Baboucarr Jallow