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Home-field advantage up in air as Real Salt Lake host Crew

Jun 18, 2022; Sandy, Utah, USA; Real Salt Lake defender Marcelo Silva (30) is congratulated by defender Justen Glad (15) and forward Justin Meram (9) celebrates after his first half goal against the San Jose Earthquakes at Rio Tinto Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jeffrey Swinger-USA TODAY Sports
Credit: Jeffrey Swinger-USA TODAY Sports

Real Salt Lake looks to extend their home-field dominance Saturday against a Columbus Crew team trying to hold on until its potential difference maker arrives next month.

RSL (8-4-4, 28 points) has won four straight in Sandy, Utah, and have not lost at home all season, going 6-0-1 thus far.

“I think the reason why we’ve been good at home is because we earned the right to be good at home,” RSL coach Pablo Mastroeni said. “We work our tails off. We play some good stuff, everyone’s committed to both sides of the ball.”

The Crew (4-5-5, 17 points) tied Charlotte FC 1-1 on June 18 without injured starters Jonathan Mensah, Artur, Pedro Santos and Lucas Zelarayan.

Mensah (head) is expected to play while Artur (leg) remains out. Zelarayan (thigh) — the Crew’s top scorer with four goals — may be available off the bench but Santos (thigh) is unlikely to play. Also, second-leading scorer Derrick Etienne Jr. (three goals) and Erik Hurtado were added to the questionable list with leg and foot injuries, respectively.

“It’s definitely a difficult stretch, especially with the injuries we have,” Crew coach Caleb Porter said. “But if you look at the last game, while we were disappointed with a draw, we’re continuing to get results.”

Losing Hurtado would be a blow. Since national team forward Gyasi Zardes was traded to Colorado in April, Hurtado has responded to increased minutes with three goals in five games, including scores in the past two matches.

Still, the Crew are struggling with a 2-5-4 mark in the past 11 games and goal scoring continues to be a problem, having been shut out six times in that stretch.

To that end, they signed 23-year-old Colombian Camilo “Cucho” Hernandez for a transfer fee in excess of $10 million from recently relegated English club Watford on June 20.

The earliest he could make his debut is July 9 at Chicago.

“We need a guy on the team who can lift us up, and he can be the guy,” Crew goalkeeper Eloy Room said.

— Field Level Media