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Crew set out to build on lopsided victory, host skidding RSL

Mar 25, 2023; Columbus, Ohio, USA; Columbus Crew forward Christian Ramirez (17) celebrates with teammates after scoring a goal against Atlanta United at Lower.com Field. Mandatory Credit: Trevor Ruszkowski-USA TODAY Sports
Credit: Trevor Ruszkowski-USA TODAY Sports

The Columbus Crew seek their first back-to-back wins of the season on Saturday when they welcome a Real Salt Lake side that fell apart after halftime in their latest loss.

In a game between teams depleted by international call-ups last weekend, Columbus (2-2-1, 7 points) romped to a 6-1 win over visiting Atlanta United.

While not everyone who contributed to that victory is likely to start this weekend, Christian Ramirez made his case for another shot after scoring twice to help spark the win. The Crew’s record-signing Cucho Hernandez remains out with a knee injury, paving the way for Ramirez to again start at center forward.

Elsewhere, playmaker Lucas Zelarayan, defender Milos Degenek and goalkeeper Eloy Room should return from national team duty to coach Wilfried Nancy’s starting 11. Their absences made Columbus’ victory last weekend all the more satisfying against an Atlanta side that entered unbeaten.

“I’m really happy when I see progress and improvement from all my players, but especially my young players,” Nancy said postgame.

Salt Lake (1-3-0, 3 points) had no such satisfaction after it became the fifth team to lose to expansion side St. Louis City, 4-0 at home, in a match where the visitors did all the damage after halftime.

St. Louis goalkeeper Roman Burki made an excellent stop just before the break to deny Salt Lake defender Brayan Vera a go-ahead goal in his MLS debut.

But from there, the Claret and Cobalt were clearly second-best despite playing with most of their key players.

It amounted to a third consecutive defeat following a season-opening victory at Vancouver, with RSL outscored 8-1 in that stretch.

“I don’t think anyone expected that result because we started the game by maintaining possession of the ball and had the majority of the goal opportunities,” said Vera, who was signed this season from America de Cali in his native Colombia. “I think after they scored their first goal we fell mentally, but we have to fix that with the next game. The moment we hit adversity, we have to remain mentally strong and overcome that.”

–Field Level Media