Thursday, November 5, 2009

RSL/Columbus: Round 2

Real Salt Lake had the chance on Wednesday to test out the venue for their upcoming second leg battle against the Columbus Crew.  The team has been in Columbus all week in an effort to get focused for this match. Here is a video from their practice session including interviews with a couple of players:

What to expect in this one:

It’s a given that the approach by Columbus for leg 2 will be different than for the first match.  A small crowd is expected according to the Columbus Dispatch,

“A crowd similar to the 11,153 that showed up for the Crew's first-round playoff victory over Kansas City last season is expected.”

The Columbus press claims that everyone is counting on RSL’s season long road woes,

“Win, lose or tie in Game 1, the Crew had planned to do the bulk of its scoring at home against Real Salt Lake, the league's worst road team.”

One thing is almost certain - reigning league MVP (until a new one is anointed later this month), Guillermo Barros Schelotto, will not be found hanging out on the Crew bench for this match. 

Another certainty is that the Crew will be pressing for the much-needed equalizer early on in this match.  If they are able to get it, then they can make a move for a second goal to take the series advantage.

KIR’s Keys to the Match

Here are a few of the many keys to this match:

  • RSL can’t give up an early goal.  The longer they can keep the Crew out of the net, the more likely they are to frustrate the Crew, and also open up the potential for a goal of their own.
  • Close down Schelotto.  GBS isn’t the speediest player, he’s not the most athletic, but he is one of the most dangerous near the goal.  He can place a shot like Blanco, and he can pick out an open player like Beckham.  When he has the ball, it’s important to close down the space, and not allow him to have room to maneuver and the time to pick out his options.
  • Don’t bunker.  Although Coah Warzycha has drawn some heat for it, his lineup and tactical choice for the first match very nearly worked.  Even with the result he managed to hold a very potent home version of Real Salt Lake to only 8 shots and 1 goal, far below the averages that the team saw during the regular season.  The success came as a result of the Crew’s discipline and ability to stay compact and be physical.  For Real Salt Lake, this isn’t their style of play, and they shouldn’t try to emulate the Crew.  Instead, they must keep the Crew honest and create some danger of their own (without leaving themselves exposed). 
  • Create some magic.  One word for this one: Yura.  I don’t know how you look past his ability to make big plays in big games.  He should get the start.

Prediction: 1-1 draw.  The Crew will score.  RSL must do the same.