SANDY, Utah – Winning at Columbus is never easy for Real Salt Lake. In fact, they haven't won a regular-season MLS game at the Crew since 2006.
They will get their chance to break that streak on Saturday, however. Although as if simply breaking through in Ohio wasn't difficult enough, things got even tougher in stoppage time of the first half of Salt Lake's loss to San Jose this past Saturday night when Kyle Beckerman was shown his sixth yellow card of the season – the RSL captain had already lost one card point from good behavior this season – meaning he will have to sit against the Crew due to yellow-card accumulation.
"It's difficult," said head coach Jason Kreis. "Kyle is the captain of this team, the leader of this team and very important for us, so we would love him to be out there."
In years past, RSL didn't really have a set solution when their US international midfielder was absent, but because Real knew situations would arise where Beckerman wouldn't be out there, they took a necessary precaution last season when they signed Cuban Yordany Álvarez.
"I think Yordany has been playing very, very well as of late, and it is good timing for him to get another opportunity," said Kreis.
The last time Álvarez was on the field was a rather forgettable experience for the entire RSL team as they fell to the lower-division Minnesota Stars in a US Open Cup game.
"This is another chance," said Kreis. "He's had a couple of chances already this year and has done pretty well with those chances. In particular, I think he looks like a player in form right now, so I am actually kind of eager to see what he can bring for us on Saturday."
Besides having a different holding midfielder, there is one other point of emphasis RSL would love to change against Columbus following their two losses last week.
"We didn't do well enough in the penalty boxes," said Kreis. "In [San Jose's and LA's] penalty box, we didn't score our chances ... and then we didn't do well enough in our box defending. We gave up two very, very soft goals on lack of focus."
So even though RSL's 32 points through 17 games this season is a franchise record, they still feel like they still haven't reached exactly where they want to be.
"We hold ourselves to our own expectations," added Kreis. "We hold ourselves to our own potential. I've looked at our group and I know what it can be. There is no more guessing about how good we can be. I know how good we can be. I've seen it before and we will keep striving to be our best."