Game 21 – RSL @ Crew Preview
A stronger Real Salt Lake team comes to town today. I would normally be expecting a big win, but Salt Lake has improved considerably since the beginning of the year. This is still a team that struggles on the road. If the Crew are going to surge into the playoffs, they will need to win games like this. The Crew are primed to take all three points tonight, as Salt Lake is missing some key people in the midfield and Columbus should have shaken off their bye week rust.
Crew on Offense: The Crew have most of their key offensive personnel back. Ekpo is still in China enjoying his team’s silver medal, but Rogers has been back for a week and should get a start. Noonan is getting fit, but should be able to provide spark off the bench (if Mitchell’s lineup is correct). RSL however has some injury issues, especially in central midfield. This may allow for Schelotto and Evans to press forward and spark the offense. Alejandro Moreno did score in a midweek friendly for Venezuela. The Crew are that much more potent if he can press the defense and even bag a goal. I really look for the Crew to maintain a high level of possession if they are successful on offense.
Crew on Defense: The Crew defense is starting to get set after a rash of injuries forced Coach Schmid to juggle the lineup. Hejduk and Padula will provide solid defense and have the ability to get forward. Chad Marshall continues to have a very good year. I am wondering who will start in the other central defensive spot. O’Rourke did a fair job of handling a very mobile Jeff Cunningham and may get the start again. Andy Iro provides a physical presence. I expect to see O’Rourke paired with Marshall. Salt Lake has added Clint Mathis and Wil Johnson in the past few weeks, but I am not sure how much they have settled in. Keeping tabs on Kyle Beckerman will be imperative, that job falls to Brian Carroll. Carroll played better after a slow start to last weeks game. He will have to set up and stifle Beckerman to really shut down the RSL offense.
Final Thoughts: This is not a must win game, but it is a game the Crew should win. Ultimately, to be a good team, the Crew have to win the games they should. I see the Crew really perfoming well out of midfield and using the speed of Rogers on the wing to create some mismatches. The Crew have a chance to take advantage of an injury weakened team that struggles on the road. I expect them to do just that.
RSL 1 – Crew 3