With the MLS schedule still more than three weeks away, both Columbus and Real Salt Lake looked still in preseason form in tonight's Champions League Quarterfinal. Lots of sloppy passing and poor finishing were expected and provided by both teams, but the main attraction was the three second half red cards that will have serious implications for teams in next week's fixture at Rio Tinto.
Tony Beltran picked up a second yellow just five minutes into the and Nat Borchers saw red for the Royals while Emilio Renteria was sent off for the home side during a off ball exchange.
The first half started brightly for the Crew, as they looked the side in the ascendency early, nearly going ahead after just one minute as Andres Mendoza saw his right footed volley off a cross from new signing Miranda go high after Miranda found space after playing a quick 1-2 down the right with Eddie Gaven.
The next major chance also fell to the Peruvian Mendoza, but he could not control a Emilio Renteria deft flick that was just a touch too high after a Robbie Rogers cross found its way to him in the 14th minute. RSL looked in full preseason mode, as their touches were sloppy and the passes were likely as not to be misplaced. The Crew on the other hand looked much better in possession but were lacking good final third touches, as was a nasty trend in the 2010 season.
The first meaningful chance fell to Emilio Renteria in the 19th after a clever Andres Mendoza back heel found him space in the box after a throw in by Rogers was initially blocked Emmanuel Ekpo showed good control to hold off RSL skipper Kyle Beckerman. Salt Late looked a tad shaky at the back for large portions of the first half, but as has been the norm for the Black and Yellow, they could not capitalize.
After both teams wasted good build up play with poor finishing Mendoza shot from inside area high, after jinking to right to get half a yard. The Crew were creating the better of chances, however they just cant find a good finish.
As the first half waned, the game started becoming a physical affair, and the first yellow was shown to Tony Beltran in the 43rd for a hard challenge on Ekpo. From the resulting Crew FK in dangerous area, a potential opportunity was missed as the free kick was not a good one. That was the last half chance in the first period, as both teams were lacking good play in the final third.
The second half started as the first one had ended, with a fullback getting booked for a hard challenge. This time it was yellow for new Crew signing Sebastian Miranda for a late foul on Salt Lake forward Fabian Espindola in the 48th. Filling the shoes of Crew legend Frankie Hedjuk isn't easy, but he certainly looked like the Californian fullback on that challenge.
From the free kick that followed, Javier Morales could only hit the wall, and a chance for RSL to steal a vital away goal went begging. Crew keeper Ray Burse, just signed to the roster had very little to do on this night, as Salt Lake could not muster a shot at his goal.
The first major talking point came in minute 52 as Tony Beltran picked up his second yellow in under 10 minutes for a foul on Eddie Gaven. After a brief delay following the showing of the yellow by referee Jair Marrufo, Beltran was sent marching. In the heat of the moment captain Kyle Beckerman picked up a yellow protesting.
The best and perhaps only real chance for the visitors came just four minutes after the sending off as Alvaro Saborio's half volley from a Javier Morales pass was sent just wide. Down to 10 men, Salt Lake nearly stole the fixture on the road.
Referee Jair Marrufo was a busy man in half number two, as a double sending off in the 72nd saw straight reds for both Emilio Renteria and Nat Borchers for off ball incident. Borchers threw elbow/arm at Renteria, but it is unclear what Renteria did based on the replays. Nevertheless, it was 10 versus 9 for the last 18 mniutes of the tie.
Still holding a man advantage, Crew boss Robert Warzycha decided to throw on new old Crew striker Jeff Cunningham for left back Josh Gardner in minute 76. The substitution was met with cheers from the few in number Nordecke, and it signaled attacking intent for the home side.
Just after the substitution, a ColeGrossman free kick from about 25 yards beat the Claret and Blue wall but not back stop Nick Rimando, who made a easy save. Late on rookie forward Justin Meram was also brought on but he could not provide any spark as a rather dull game drew to and end at nil-nil.
The home side will feel disappointed that they could not exploit a nearly whole half man advantage, but Salt Lake will need to improve at home as they were second best for long stretches of play. Overall, it looked more like a preseason friendly rather than a continental quarterfinal.
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