Columbus Crew SC aren't happy with the team's start to the season on paper, as the club sits near the bottom of the Eastern Conference with just 11 points through 11 matches. The positive is the Black & Gold have not lost in three matches, but none of those have been wins either.
In fact, it's been over a month, April 23 vs. the Houston Dynamo, that Crew SC last captured a full three points from a match. Columbus hopes to change that Saturday night when Real Salt Lake comes to town.
RSL enters this game after a 3-1 road win over Sporting Kansas City. Despite that victory, Salt Lake has lost three of the club's last five matches. Be that as it may, Real sits in third place in the Western Conference on 20 points and six wins, so things aren't too bad out west.
The man that drives the RSL ship is forward Joao Plata. Salt Lake's No. 10 leads the team in both goals and assists with four and five respectively. Playing alongside him are forwards Juan Martinez and Yura Movsisyan. The duo have combined for seven goals already this year.
While we know some about Real, us Midwestern folk don't like to stay up late and watch those games out west. So we turned to the man who knows everything about the team, RSL Soapbox's editor Randal Serr for more information.
Questions for RSL Soapbox
Massive Report: A fast start to the season -- six games unbeaten -- has helped RSL to a good spot in the West here at the end of June. How big was the beginning of the season for Salt Lake after the disappointing ninth place finish a year ago?
RSL Soapbox: Last year was something most Real Salt Lake fans are not used to. Unless you followed RSL from their inception, you haven't seen them lose very much until last year. But to answer the question, it depends on who you ask. I didn't expect RSL to turn things around so quickly. I was starting to think that the train had gone too far off the tracks to come back so soon. To Jeff Cassar and Craig Waibel's credit, they have learned and improved a lot in a short period of time. There are still plenty of games to play, but this RSL squad looks much closer to the RSL that was at its peak four or five years ago than the RSL of 2015. They went out and got some important pieces, namely Sunny Obayan, Yura Movsisyan, and Burrito Martinez that really brought some quality to the squad in some very important spots on the field. That said, even GM Craig Waibel said that RSL is ahead of schedule on their return to being a contender. No complaints here.
MR: Obviously Yura Movsisyan has three goals already this season, but what else has he brought to to the Real attack that's already scored 17 goals?
RSLS: Yura has hit the post or crossbar at least three times this season, so he could very well have at least six goals. But most importantly, Movsisyan brings a championship mentality and a mature selflessness that is something all the other players pick up on. From his interviews, and from what I can tell of his play on the field, he is just as happy to create for his fellow teammates as he is to score. That's not to say he doesn't want to score goals. He set some lofty goals for himself before the season started by saying he is going to do things he has never done before when asked if he can cross the 20-goal threshold. So he is a nice combination of being a team player and attracting a lot of attention while also having a hunger to put some balls in the back of the net.
MR: Kyle Beckerman will miss this match as he heads off to begin play with the U.S. Men's National Team. Obviously he's a major part of RSL's team. Where doe Jeff Cassar turn with Beckerman unavailable and how will it impact this game?
RSLS: I did a short, under sampled Twitter survey and it seems like most people think Luke Mulholland will step in to replace Kyle Beckerman while he's away on international duty. Mulholland has a bit more of a nose for goal and has scored a few every year he has been with Salt Lake. His defense and ability to hold up the ball and win tackles is where he comes up short of Kyle Beckerman. That's not a dig to Mulholland as he is a very capable player that has had long stretches of being a starter for this club. The other likely scenario if Mulholland doesn't get the nod is John Stertzer who is a gritty defender and is not afraid to go in for a hard tackle.
We will bring you our answers to RSL Soapbox's questions as soon as they are posted.