Real Salt Lake is heading into halftime holding a 2-0 lead over the Columbus Crew in the CONCACAF Champions League quarterfinal. They are playing at the fortress of Rio Tinto Stadium. Is this really a surprise.
I know there was a fair amount of hand-wringing after last week's 0-0 tie. What many people, including myself, had expected to see was for the Crew to get run over by a much more experienced RSL side that, presumably was better prepared for the preseason encounter. Instead, we were "treated" to a boring, sloppy game that was played in well-below-freezing temperatures and on a pitch that was basically frozen.
Playing in conditions that are better, although not much, we are really seeing the differences in these two sides. RSL looks calm and composed and is looking strong. The Crew have been reduced to counter-attacks and don't appear capable of sustaining any real pressure.
The Crew might not turn out to be as bad as some of us have predicted, or as bad as they look today, but it just seems unrealistic if anyone really believed as much as a tie would have been anything less than a huge upset. This Crew team has only been playing together for a couple of weeks. RSL has been together for more than a year. If RSL didn't come out on top, even convincingly and despite the fact that this is preseason, that would be cause for concern. That RSL has now dominated the Crew for 45 minutes is merely cementing what should have been obvious all along: One of these teams is a title contender and the other is going to fighting for a playoff spot.