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Jeff Cassar has made embracing a short-term memory a point of emphasis to his club. Since taking over as head coach of Real Salt Lake, Cassar has asked his players to forget the good just as quickly as they forget the bad.
"What I've been stressing all along with these guys is, 'OK, we won? Great, on to the next team. You lose? OK, it sucks, on to the next team,'" Cassar said after RSL's 4-0 loss Saturday at Seattle. "That's what we've done."
In fairness, entering Wednesday's road matchup with the Columbus Crew, RSL has its first true test of erasing the bad after deleting what was mainly the good of a 12-game unbeaten streak to start the season. Another match away from Rio Tinto Stadium three days after the club's first loss of the year should serve as an opportunity to wipe away how things transpired Saturday at CenturyLink Field.
"Either way, I think that we're going to bounce back," defender Nat Borchers said. "I think that we've got some good games ahead of us and it'll be important to respond, for sure."
Which players playing where exactly is the largest looming question. RSL's second match of three in an eight-day span before the club returns for a home date with Portland Saturday, could see sort of a makeshift lineup. Chris Schuler might return to the starting lineup after being held out Saturday, and if forward Joao Plata who made the trip to Columbus can be a factor in the suddenly struggling RSL attack, things could be looking up.
"It's really about taking care of our bodies," Cassar said. "We have 19 healthy bodies right now."
Having jetted directly from Seattle to Columbus on Sunday to prepare for the hot-and-cold Crew, RSL knows the home side won't show any mercy for tired legs. Columbus also faces its second match of three in eight days after falling to Toronto FC 3-2 on the road Saturday.
Under first-year coach Gregg Berhalter, the Crew have new life after a disappointing 2013 campaign. Paced by forward Federico Higuain (six goals, five assists) along with Hector Jimenez, Jairo Arrieta and Will Trapp, Columbus sits in the middle of the pack in the Eastern Conference. The hot 3-0-0 start is gone, with the club now 4-5-4.
"It's always interesting playing a team in the East, especially away," said defender Tony Beltran. "They're a team that has found a new identity, has a coach that's come in with a lot of purpose and given that purpose through his players. I'm excited to face them. I think it'll be a unique challenge for us."
Unique is a fitting description of this match.
Unless the two sides meet again in the MLS Cup final, this is the only time the two clubs will play in 2014, and with each side playing a midweek game in the midst of three in a week, the results could sit with the depth built by RSL and Columbus.
RSL at Columbus
Wednesday, 5:30 p.m.
RSL at Columbus Crew
P At Crew Stadium, Columbus, Ohio, 5:30 p.m. MDT
TV • CW30 Radio • 700 AM
Records • RSL 6-1-6; Columbus 4-5-4
Last meeting • RSL 4, Columbus 0 (Aug. 24, 2013)
About RSL • Forward Alvaro Saborio underwent successful foot surgery Monday to repair a broken metatarsal on his right foot and remains out 3 to 4 months. … Joao Plata (left hamstring) traveled to Columbus and could make the game-day roster. … Forwards Devon Sandoval, Olmes Garcia and Robbie Findley have yet to tally a goal for RSL in 2014. … Saturday's 4-0 loss to Seattle was the club's worst loss since a 5-0 loss at San Jose on July 14, 2012. … RSL conceded nine goals in May, one more than in March and April combined.
About Columbus • Forward Federico Higuain leads the Crew attack with six goals and five assists. … Tied for fifth in the Eastern Conference with 16 points, the Crew have scored 17 goals, while conceding 17. … First-year coach Gregg Berhalter is a former U.S. men's national team player and was the first American to ever manage a professional soccer club in Europe when coaching Swedish club Hammarby.