Choosing to rest several key players--as was the case at Seattle in that lopsided loss--RSL rolled the dice and inserted defender Carlos Salcedo in the middle alongside Chris Schuler, who was back in the lineup after sitting out Saturday's debacle in Seattle. RSL also started Rich Balchan and Abdoulie Mansally on the wings in place of Tony Beltran and Chris Wingert.
Mansally had played nearly 200 minutes before this game --but Salcedo and Balchan had only been on the pitch for a total of 40 minutes. The crazy thing is, the wholesale changes in defense almost worked--if not for a Crew breakaway by a late-game substitute in the 88th minute to end the match 1-1.
In a rainy game at Crew Stadium on which RSL trotted out a surprising 4-2-3-1 formation, the claret and cobalt were out possessed by the Crew by a 59-41 margin, a deficit that is unusual for any Real Salt Lake team.
Considering that Columbus also out-shot RSL 21-8 in the game, you would wonder how the visitors were so fortunate as to come away with a road point. The reason was simple: goalkeeper Jeff Attinella was on his game--and so was this makeshift defense that RSL head coach Jeff Cassar cobbled together to keep a few players fresh for this weekend's clash with rival Portland.
Despite having the ball literally rammed down their throats for most of the game, Real Salt Lake held steady, didn’t panic and if not for a late-game momentary collapse, would have escaped Columbus with a win, according to Cassar.
“I think at the end of the day we are going to leave here feeling fine with a point. We could have had three. Our goalkeeper played fantastic, so it was probably the correct result at the end of the day,” Cassar said at his post-game press conference. “If we could do a better job in the last five minutes of games we would have a much better record.”
Real Salt Lake seemed to have luck on its side Wednesday. An 11th minute penalty kick by Gonzalo Higuain, the former Boca Juniors legend, got blasted into the cheap seats instead of the net, keeping the score level at 0-0.
In the 21st minute, Attinella’s reflexes were put to the test but he came up big, diving on a volley that a Crew player ripped and that had eyes for RSL’s net. Columbus had other chances, but RSL defender Chris Schuler was solid as a rock in defense, helping guide his team out of pressure which increased as the game went on.
RSL got its only goal in the 56th minute when a corner kick by Javier Morales turned into a free-for-all in the penalty box, resulting in a Mansally rocket at the top of the box towards Columbus’ goal and a diving parry by the Crew keeper.
The ball squirted out towards midfielder Luis Gil, who slotted it past the far post and into side netting to give RSL a 1-0 advantage. Unfortunately on this night of tinkering RSL’s lead would not hold up and the claret and cobalt would go home with a road point when a win was there for the taking.