Photo by Rick Osentoski/ISIphotos.com
By AVI CREDITOR
Real Salt Lake and the Columbus Crew will play their first meaningful game in almost four months when Crew Stadium opens its doors for the first leg of their CONCACAF Champions League quarterfinal on Tuesday (8 p.m., Fox Soccer Channel).
The Crew isn't being given much of a chance, considering the offseason moves the team has made and the amount of injuries that have piled up during the MLS preseason.
Conversely, Real Salt Lake is in pretty good health, added veteran depth to its midfield and figures to enter the 2011 MLS season as one of the favorites to reach the MLS Cup final.
Here's a closer look at how the two teams line up ahead of Tuesday night's match in Columbus:
COLUMBUS CREW VS. REAL SALT LAKE
KEY OFFSEASON LOSES
Real Salt Lake – Robbie Findley, David Horst
Columbus Crew – Guillermo Barros Schelotto, Frankie Hejduk, Steven Lenhart, Brian Carroll, Gino Padula, Jason Garey, Eric Brunner
KEY OFFSEASON ACQUISITIONS
Real Salt Lake – Arturo Alvarez, Cody Arnoux
Columbus Crew – Jeff Cunningham, Sebastian Miranda, Cole Grossman, Rich Balchan, Justin Meram, Korey Veeder, Josh Gardner
Real Salt Lake – Javier Morales (ankle), Arnoux (knee), Alvarez (adductor strain)
Columbus Crew – Will Hesmer (shoulder), Andy Gruenebaum (groin/hip), Shaun Francis (hamstring), Kevin Burns (ribs), Dilly Duka (abdomen), Danny O'Rourke (knee)
PATH TO THE QUARTERFINALS
Real Salt Lake – Won Group A; Went 4-1-1 against Cruz Azul, Toronto FC and Arabe Unido
Columbus Crew – Finished second in Group B; Went 4-2-0 against Santos Laguna, Municipal and Joe Public
Real Salt Lake
The overpowering consensus seems to be that Real Salt Lake will go into Columbus and thrash the Crew, but it likely won't be that simple.
Both teams are still in preseason mode and temperatures are expected to be in the mid-20s, which should level the playing field a bit and play into the Crew's favor to help offset the experience/continuity/talent gap. Columbus also has Chad Marshall in central defense, and while he can't do everything himself, he's capable of thwarting numerous chances in his own end alongside Andy Iro.
That being said, the untested Ray Burse will be getting the start in goal, there's little to no continuity from the successful squads of years past and previous role players like Robbie Rogers and Emmanuel Ekpo will have to grow into starring roles for the Crew to hang tough – not just tonight, but all season long.
While Columbus' lineup will barely resemeble anything like its 2010 version, the same cannot be said for Real Salt Lake. Coach Jason Kreis has the luxury of relying on a starting XI he knows can get the job done, and it likely will despite being on the road playing under less-than-ideal conditions.
Prediction: Real Salt Lake 2, Columbus Crew 0
Who do you think will win tonight's match? What's your prediction for the final score?
Share your thoughts below.
Carroll, not Lenhart. Steven Lenhart was the #4 Crew striker last year (Guillermo, Renteria, Mendoza).
And a case could be made that Frankie wasn’t a starter. DannyO was a better choice at RB last year.
RSL/Crew will play the winner of Saprissa/Marathon, or whatever.
Espindola’s injury is supposed to keep him out of the game.
sorry. definitely a painful game but it was exciting as hell to watch! had olave or even schuler been at centerback for mackenzie i don’t think the last 2 goals would’ve been scored.
are you from my beautiful hometown of AF?
Man I can’t wait for this game and the MLS season in general.
I wouldn’t list Brunner as a key loss.
You just had to bring the Mexico City game up didn’t you?!? That game still hurts me inside… But it does prove that this team has what it takes to potentially win anywhere…
I too had my name to the list of Real Salt Lake name haters at the beginning but… Whatever. I don’t care anymore.
Here’s to a RSL victory and great Cup run!
Javi’s injury isn’t bad enough to keep him out of this one… At least that’s what I’m hoping…
I would really like to see Leandre Griffit get the nod tonight at some point. The Crew need him, and not to mention he has UCL experience with IF Elfsborg in Sweden. Columbus Till I Die.
The Crew are not as weak as one would think, but all in all I am hoping for a win, but expecting a draw.
I live an hour south of Columbus, I think there might be freezing rain/sleet/snow tonight. 🙂
real salt lake wasn’t my first choice either but it’s grown on me. it could be worse…there are two uruguayan sides called liverpool fc and montevideo wanderers!
anybody who watched RSL hand it to cruz azul for 85 minutes last round wouldn’t doubt our ability to win in mexico.
i’m stoked for tonight and for RSL’s chances this season. go RSL!
I want nothing more than for an MLS team to win the CONCACAF champions league. RSL can do it this year. At least it is impossible to have an all-Mexican final again.
The only thing that worries me is Cunningham. He always comes out to play against RSL, as I think he always is trying to show Kries up for letting him go. That being said, RSL gets the win in this one.
thats true because all the mexican clubs are on the other side of the bracket. RSL would likely be favored if they made it to semis, and I for one think theyre plenty capable of winning it all.
Right, they can only meet in the finals I believe
That’s why CONCACAF set up the quarter finals so MLS teams could avoid Mexican teams(to fuuny). nice try guys but I think you underestimate Saprissa, a club that has already won this tournament before.Facing a Mexican team is unevitable, so it’s good to avoid them as long as possible.
So it looks like we’re forced to admit the worst branded team in the league plays the most attractive soccer.
Just get rid of the “Real” name before they make history and the whole world cracks up at American capitalism’s expense one more time
There is absolutely no way an MLS team is going to beat a team from Mexico in the semis.
RSL’s roster is too deep, one of the best in MLS if you ask me, and I’d definitely throw them in for the Supporters Shield along with the Galaxy and maybe NY. they are easily MLS’ best chance of winnin the CCL (fingers crossed), and the Crew just don’t have the same team as last year. Even if Columbus advanced, I wouldn’t see them beating a Mexican side in the semis, but I could definitely see RSL winning there, and they don’t lose at home. Anything can happen I know, but I think RSL is way too strong for them
You said Morales had an ankle injury, but hes in your potential line up? Or are there 2 people with the last name Morales that play for RSL?
No idea why the weather is considered a leveler tonight. The night time temps here are in the 20’s more often then not.
Agree, except they’re not from NY.
While I don’t think Columbus is as bad as some people think they are, they will be missing a few too many key ingredients tonight. Burse is a nice guy but I think he’s more of a USL-level keeper. 2-0 RSL.
Everything you said, but replace Chicago with DC.
Andres Mendoza, the Crew’s high salary striker, will prob. get the start over either Cunningham or Renteria. Additionally, one should point out that if it weren’t for injuries to Hesmer, O’Rourke, Francis, and possibly Gaven, the Crew’s first XI would look very similar to last year’s (minus Hejduk and GBS).
The craziest thing about RSL lineup is that they have so much depth with all the talented young players on their team:
F: Paulo Jr., Cody Arnoux
M: Luis Gill, Jean Alexandre, Collin Warner
I don’t root for either team but for MLS sake I hope RSL advances cleanly and takes it to one of the mexican teams. Saborio and Morales are beasts and Will Johnson is one of my fav players to watch in the MLS.
I am looking forward to a great game tonight. RSL are and should be the favorites, but on a cold night in Columbus,with both teams in pre-season form…anything can happen. Go RSL!
This game will be close, can’t wait to watch!
I will give credit where credit is due. RSL has done a great job building a very good team over the years. Yes, they were a laughing stock in the beginning but they are the ones laughing now. Their organization is nothing but class. Can’t find any reason to really hate them except they are not from Chicago. That’s good enough for me.