Real Salt Lake aims to keep hot hand vs. Crew (Jul 29, 2017)
Columbus goes into Saturday's match at Real Salt Lake with two challenges to overcome.
First, Crew SC will play in altitude (4,278 feet) at Rio Tinto Stadium coming off Wednesday's 3-0 at Philadelphia while RSL (7-12-3) is rested.
That alone makes for a tired bunch but Columbus (10-11-1) will also be without center backs Jonathan Mensah and Lalas Abubakar because of red cards during the game against the Union.
Josh William and Nicolai Naess are candidates to start in their absences although coach Gregg Berhalter may opt to switch from his recent use of three center backs, so only one of them might be in the lineup.
"We have five center backs (on the roster) so all them didn't get red carded," Berhalter said after the match. "We'll be able to regroup and play with two."
He's also concerned about the quick turnaround for the second of the three straight road games.
"This is something you have to deal with," he said. "I've talked to other coaches around the league. They're dealing with the same thing. They fly all across the country on short rest, and that's part of it. We'll regroup and we'll put a team on the field Saturday that will be competitive."
Columbus had won two straight matches by 1-0 scores before the Philly meltdown and faces a team that has been gaining momentum.
Although Real Salt Lake tied Sporting Kansas City 1-1 in its last match, it is 2-0-1 in the past three matches, scoring 12 goals and averaging nine shots on goal during the span.
"We're at home. We have to remember we're the aggressor," RSL goalkeeper Nick Rimando.
To do that defender Justen Glad said RSL will push the play.
"They're a team that likes to play out of the back so we're going to try and press them and force turnovers in their half and hopefully spark the attack," he said.
The RSL offense is led by Joao Plata, Albert Rusnak and Jefferson Savarino, who have combined for 10 goals and nine assists since mid-May.
Columbus won't have midfielder Federico Higuain (ankle sprain) for a fourth straight match.
Crew forward Justin Meram said the Philadelphia match is in the rearview mirror.
"It is only one game," he said. "We had two wins in a row, so everything has been alright."