Soccer: The Crew come home to face Salt Lake

By Columbus Alive
From the June 28, 2012 edition

As the brown grass in your backyard makes abundantly clear, Columbus is in the middle of a drought. The local soccer team hasn’t exactly been making it rain, either — other than a short spurt in May, the Crew simply can’t seem to score goals. They laid a goose egg in New England and could manage only a single score in Chicago despite playing with a one-man advantage for 60 minutes.

That said, at least one dry spell is thankfully coming to a close. After an excruciating five-week absence from Crew Stadium, the yellow man group is back on its home turf this Saturday for a showdown with Western Conference power Real Salt Lake (pronounced Ray-al Salt Lake).

It’s “Red, White & Crew” night, so fireworks are guaranteed after the game, but maybe during it, too, since RSL is in town. (Also because lately it has been so hot that a soccer ball might burst into flames mid-flight, like the missile from that old Crew Stadium pregame video where Crew Cat launches explosives at the opposing team’s logo from a fighter jet.)

Columbus and Salt Lake have a history of raining on one other’s parade, so while Saturday’s game can’t match the stakes of some of the recent Crew-RSL showdowns, it should be a hard-fought battle between two perennial playoff teams.

To get prepped, consider some of the Crew’s recent skirmishes with RSL.

Nov. 5, 2009: Defending champion Columbus collapses in the second leg of an Eastern Conference playoff semifinal, losing 3-2 (4-2 on aggregate) to their eventual MLS Cup successors from Salt Lake.

March 1, 2011: After drawing 0-0 in Columbus in the first leg of the CONCACAF Champions League quarterfinals, Salt Lake demolishes the Crew 4-1 in Utah to advance to the semis of the international tournament, denying Columbus the chance to be the first MLS team to advance that far in the Champions League.

July 30, 2011: Columbus storms into Salt Lake’s highly advantageous home field Rio Tinto Stadium and dominates RSL for the second time that summer; their 2-0 victory is a rarity, only the second home loss by Salt Lake in 37 tries since Rio Tinto opened in 2008.

Credit: Mike Munden photo