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Scouting Report: Real Salt Lake

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In this midweek match, we take a look at the Crew's Wednesday opponent, Real Salt Lake.

Steven Bisig-USA TODAY Sports

Unless the two teams meet in the MLS Cup Final or in the U.S. Open Cup, Wednesday's match between Real Salt Lake and the Columbus Crew is the only meeting of the season between the clubs.

The two come into this game on the back of disappointing defeats, looking to bounce back in the midweek encounter.

The Crew fell 3-2 to Toronto FC on Saturday after leading the game twice. Columbus allowed two goals in the final 10 minutes, including the stoppage time winner from a free kick. Salt Lake suffered their first loss of the year - 4-0 to the Seattle Sounders - after going undefeated through their first 12 games.

Both teams will be looking to use the mantra Crew head coach Gregg Berhalter has used with his team.

"The message I always tell the team is, ‘they beat us on Saturday. Don't let them beat us again on Wednesday,'" he said this week. "That's a famous coaching cliché but it's true."

Columbus has had to deal with responding to losses this season with five on the year, but Real are dealing with this for the first time. Fortunately, they are an experienced and talented group that has been through adversity before.

"They've lost one game all year," midfielder Justin Meram said. That's tremendous! That's saying something.

"From Jeff Cesar, they play an interesting style. It's a fun way to play soccer and we play excellent soccer as well so it's going to be a great game on Wednesday."

The RSL style of play is one that they established and have been successful with dating back to 2009 when they won MLS Cup. Under the guidance of Jason Kreis - who has now moved on to coach New York City F.C. - Salt Lake became one of MLS' power teams.

"It's one of those teams your respect because they do the same thing every time," experienced midfielder Daniel Paladini said.

"They don't change the way they play no matter who they play against. They have their diamond, they have their guys. Whether it's [Kyle Beckerman] or [Cole Grossman], whoever it is that's playing the position, they all know their role. It's going to be tough and they're going to be doing a lot of movement."

The diamond midfield has been tied to Real in this league. They are one of the few teams that use it consistently and they are certainly the most successful.

"They overload the middle and they get possession that way, by having numbers," Berhalter said of the diamond.

"We like to do something similar; we do it in a different way though. I think it's effective. They have the majority of possession against a lot of teams. I think it's going to be interesting to see in this game how that plays out because we haven't been out possessed yet this season."

RSL will be without a few key players for this match. Goalkeeper Nick Rimando and midfield stalwart Kyle Beckerman are both away on international duty with the U.S. Men's National Team, while joint top scorer Alvaro Saborio was hurt while preparing for the World Cup with Costa Rica. Midfielder Sebastian Velasquez is also out while dealing with personal issues, including a DUI charge.

Second year forward Joao Plata, who is tied with Saborio for the team lead with six goals, missed Saturday's loss with a hamstring injury and is questionable for this match. He is an essential part of their lineup that they sorely missed in the loss and if he is able to return in any fashion, it will be a big boost.

The Crew also get a boost with the return of Federico Higuain, who missed the Toronto game through suspension. His return will be a welcomed one to the lineup, as the team looked a bit disjointed without him and midfielder Wil Trapp, who remains questionable for this game with a knee knock.

The x-factor for RSL is midfielder Javier Morales. The playmaker has four goals and five assists on the season and really makes the attack go for Salt Lake, comparing favorably to Higuain for Columbus.

"Very comparable," he said when asked about the two.

"This is one of the best players in the league the last five years. Morales is a very good player. Very instrumental in their attack and I have a lot of respect for him as a player. I think he's done a great job."

As both teams are determined to dominate the possession and control the game, this game could boil down to who can capitalize on one chance. Real is coming off two consecutive shutouts, so they will be hoping to find the net.

Projected Starting XI

Columbus Crew vs Real Salt Lake - Football tactics and formations