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Real Salt Lake vs. Columbus Crew report card

Published: Saturday, July 30 2011 9:22 p.m. MDT

Saturday night looked like target practice for Columbus in the first 15 minutes at Rio Tinto Stadium as Real Salt Lake let two out of three shots on goal find the back of the net before they could even get a single shot on goal - in the second half. They finally found a groove and wore down Columbus by the 70th minute but never did find the net to end the match by the margin of goals allowed in those first minutes, 2-0.

Nick Rimando was tested three times early in the game and came up lacking on two of them. His back line was no help, but both scores were savable if we hold Nick to his usual standard. Distribution was not terrific either. His FIFA save in the 35th minute might be enough for goal of the week, but still wasn't enough to make up for the early gaffes. Sorry Nick, not one of your better nights. Grade: B-

Robbie Russell was not as good on defense as he was on offense. Even then, he never quite found his groove. His cross to Alexandre in the 13th minute almost brought new life to a struggling Real Salt Lake who went down early due to a miscue by Russell that put Columbus in position to score its first goal. Grade: B-

Chris Schuler looked completely lost the first 30 minutes of the game Saturday night as he filled in for Jamison Olave who was out with a grade 1 knee sprain incurred during the MLS All-Star loss to Manchester United on Wednesday night. His positioning was awful and he seemed to be moving at 3/4 speed. By the 35th minute he'd found his way and was up to full speed but much too late. Grade: C-

Nat Borchers' leadership was sorely needed Saturday night without Jamison Olave in the lineup. Unfortunately Nat must not have gotten the memo. The first 30 minutes found Real's defensive back line a complete mess with Schuler out of position, Wingert out of sorts and Russell getting all he could handle from the likes of Dejan Rusmir. Borchers is expected to do much more than just play well and though Saturday he did that relatively well, he came up short on the leadership end. Grade: B

Chris Wingert didn't seem to realize that he's competing for playing time with the red-hot Tony Beltran. Maybe it was his lack of playing time because he looked rusty. His reaction time was slow and his positioning, particularly downfield, created too many gaps, including the one that left Eddie Gavin unmarked in the box for his 5th minute goal. Grade: C+

Ned Grabavoy was instrumental in bringing the midfield together to play a much better second half. His field vision and management were superb, helping to confuse Columbus' defense in the midfield to create a number of scoring opportunities. Real still needs to see Grabavoy take on the box with his skill to create more linked-passing or breakthrough opportunities. Grade: B+

Kyle Beckerman was not interested in losing to Colubmus and going down 2-0 Saturday night gave him more than enough reason to run the entire field all night long. He seemed to be playing defensive back one minute, his midfield position the next and forward the next - and he was good at all of them. Unfortunately by the time the rest of his team caught up with him the game was already lost. Man of the Match. Grade: A-

Andy Williams was solid in the midfield, creating RSL's first real scoring opportunity in the 47th minute with a pinpoint pass forward to a streaking Fabian Espindola. His set pieces were adequate but it was his hustle in the midfield that kept fans optimistic despite the lackluster play from much of the rest of his team. Grade: A-

Will Johnson continues to have the most impressive motor for Real Salt Lake. The guy just doesn't quit. By the second half he'd replaced Robbie Russell as right back and found a hole in the right midfield from which he launched a number of attacks, including a 35 yard shot that sailed over the goal in the 72nd minute. Columbus wore out after 70 minutes and it was Johnson's motor, combined with the fresh legs of Collen Warner and Arturo Alvarez that kept fans thinking Real had a chance to at least tie up the game. Grade: B+

Jean Alexandre was in all the right places at all the right times but was unable to finish several opportunities. Like his lead-footed stab that sent Espindola's perfect cross in the 23rd minute sailing over the goal to his fumbling footwork in front of the six yard box in the 40th minute that never even resulted in pretty open shot. Grade: B-

Fabian Espindola was one of the few bright lights for RSL Saturday night using his speed and agility to attack Columbus early. His run and cross in the 23rd minute generated the perfect setup for a goal but Jean Alexandre lacked the finishing touch to put it in the back of the net. His shot in the 47th minute was the first one on goal and required a terrific save by Colubmus goalie Andy Gruenebaum. The quality of his passing the second half broke down some, but not enough to keep him from continuing to pose a constant threat to the Crew. Grade: B+

Arturo Alvarez made an immediate impact when he was subbed on in the 60th minute for Robbie Russell. He teamed up with Will Johnson and Collen Warner to torment the left side of the Columbus defensive line who, while wearied, were unbowed to the onslaught. Grade: A-

Collen Warner showed that he might be developing into the kind of offensive midfield threat Garth Lagerway and co. must have hoped for when they drafted him a year ago out of Portland in the first round. By the time he joined the game, Columbus was bending, but never broke despite his efforts. Grade: B+

Luis Gil came on in the 70th minute for Jean Alexandre to team up with the other young guns subbed on a few minutes before him. His fresh legs were a challenge to the Columbus defenders but his work in front of the goal was unpolished, cracking one shot that should have been on goal ten feet over the goal. Gil is still becoming a threat but if tonight's effort is any indication, he's not there yet. Grade: B

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