For a 0-0 game, there were plenty of surprises in the opening leg of the Crew's two-game CONCACAF Champions League quarterfinal series against Real Salt Lake.

For a 0-0 game, there were plenty of surprises in the opening leg of the Crew's two-game CONCACAF Champions League quarterfinal series against Real Salt Lake.

In terms of pleasant surprises, Columbus dominated the first half despite starting five new players, including three out of four defenders.

Less agreeable was the Crew's shocking ineptitude and lack of urgency in a second half they played largely with a man advantage.

Perhaps most unexpected was seeing referee Jair Marrufo - he of the infamous Blanco-gate incident of 2009 - hand out three second-half red cards.

Marrufo ejected RSL defender Tony Beltran in the 53rd minute when a wild slide tackle resulted in Beltran's second yellow card. In the 72nd minute Marrufo sent off Crew forward Emilio Renteria and RSL defender Nat Borchers after an altercation between the players resulted in Borchers decking Renteria.

All three ejected players must sit out next Tuesday's return leg in Utah.

The flurry of red cards was unusual but not unprecedented in a Crew game. Some notable ejection-heavy performances:

Sept. 16, 2006: Red Bulls 1, Crew 0

This is one of two previous Crew games in which the teams combined for three red cards.

Columbus forward Joseph Ngwenya was ejected in the 20th minute for kicking New York's Seth Stammler in the stomach. New York's Mike Magee got sent off in minute 64 for hitting Columbus' Kei Kamara. The Crew soon went down a man again when Marcos Gonzalez elbowed John Wolyniec in the face.

Presumably, the Crew's Chris Leitch could have been red-carded too for blocking an opponent's shot with his hand, but Leitch emerged unscathed. Crew goalie Bill Gaudette even saved the ensuing penalty kick by Youri Djorkaeff. A young Jozy Altidore finally finished Columbus off with a goal in the 84th.

May 19, 2001: Crew 2, United 1

Here's the only other time the Crew suffered two ejections. Defenders Ansil Elcock and Tenywa Bonseu both drew red in the second half for hard tackles, but Columbus pulled off a dramatic 2-1 win thanks to Jeff Cunningham's goal in overtime.

April 12, 2008 : Crew 4, Chivas 3

Crew opponents have tallied two red cards on three previous occasions. In this cold-weather barnburner, Francisco Mendoza and Sacha Kljestan saw red in consecutive minutes as Chivas scrambled to overcome a 4-3 deficit.