Real Salt Lake tries to improve its subpar road record against a Columbus Crew squad that would take a win anywhere at this stage when the teams meet at Mapfre Stadium on Saturday.
Columbus (7-5-6, 27 points) was rolling along and inching its way toward the top of the Eastern Conference with a nine-game unbeaten streak, but at the back end of that were three straight ties.
Coupled with consecutive 2-0 defeats, including at Los Angeles FC on June 23, the Crew are winless in five matches and have dropped to fourth. The Crew haven’t had such a long stretch without a victory since going winless in 10 straight in 2016.
Real Salt Lake (7-7-2), Portland and Vancouver are tied for fourth in the Western Conference with 23 points. Imagine where Real Salt Lake would be if it didn’t have such a disparity between how it plays at Rio Tinto Stadium and as a visitor.
The Royals are 6-1-1 at home with a plus-5 goal differential (15-10). They are 1-6-1 in away matches and have been outscored 20-5. In their past 12 road games dating to last season they are 1-9-2 while allowing 2.3 goals per game.
RSL has seven losses and a draw in regular-season play at Columbus since 2006.
“They’re a very disciplined team,” RSL coach Mike Petke said of the Crew. “They play a distinct style and it doesn’t change much. It’s very tough to play against.”
Real Salt Lake will look to take advantage of the absence of Crew and U.S. National Team goalkeeper Zack Steffen, who underwent knee surgery on Monday and will miss a second straight match. Jon Kempin will start.
“My job is to keep it close, keep us in it so the rest of the guys can score some goals and do the rest of the work,” Kempin said.
—Field Level Media