2019 MLS Week 18 Preview — Real Salt Lake (7-2-8) vs. Columbus Crew (5-2-11)

In search of a fourth straight home win that would keep them in the thick of the chase for the final playoff spot in the Western Conference, Real Salt Lake looks to extend the Columbus Crew’s run of misery in their Wednesday night showdown.

Real Salt Lake (7-2-8) is one point out of seventh in the West, which carries the final playoff berth. RSL snapped a three-match winless streak in league play Saturday with a 2-0 victory over Sporting Kansas City that was also their second shutout in three home matches.

Nick Rimando made three saves as he continued padding his leading all-time MLS goalkeeper stats for wins (214) and shutouts (147) while moving within two matches shy of 500. Sam Johnson accounted for the offense with a first-half brace as Real opened a critical home-heavy stretch of schedule with three points.

“From 11 games, we play eight games at home, and that is a big advantage for us,” midfielder Damir Kreilach told RSL’s official website. “We proved last year that we are one of the best home teams in the league. We have to keep this momentum to keep going, to push us, and in this part of the season, the most important thing is to collect the points.”

After needing some time to acclimate following his arrival from Norwegian side Valeranga, Johnson has found a comfort level with seven goals in nine MLS starts and his last 11 matches overall.

Columbus (5-2-11) has gone 209 minutes without a goal in league play since Pedro Santos’ equalizer in a 2-2 draw versus New York City FC on June 1, and its winless streak reached six matches (0-1-5) after a 2-0 home loss to Orlando City SC on Saturday.

The short-handed Crew – playing without U.S. internationals Gyasi Zardes and Will Trapp and injured top striker Federico Higuain – again struggled to finish chances in the final third and have just one victory in their last 12 league matches (1-1-10). Saturday’s match was particularly frustrating considering Columbus bossed possession and limited Orlando to just three shots over the 90 minutes.

“It’s another game, similar to what I’ve said in the past,” Crew coach Caleb Porter said. “A lot of good things box-to-box but the most important thing is the score line. The most important thing is what you do in (the) box. It comes down to those moments and we’re not scoring goals and we’re giving up goals on three shots.

“I mean, I’ve never been a part of a game where you’ve given up three shots and you’ve given up two goals. We’ll keep working, keep trying to find ways for guys to score.”

Columbus’ 16 goals are better than only expansion side FC Cincinnati, but its defense has been the sore point during its current six-game road losing streak. The Crew have shipped 13 goals in those defeats with just three in reply.

The Crew, though, have left Rio Tinto Stadium with draws in their last two visits. That is part of a five-match unbeaten run (3-2-0) versus RSL they extended last year with a 2-1 victory on first-half goals by Zardes and Eduardo Sosa before Albert Rusnak pulled one back late for Real.

(Nick Rimando photo courtesy Real Salt Lake official Twitter account)

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