COLUMBUS – Real Salt Lake and the Columbus Crew played a heated match on a frigid night Tuesday, ending in a scoreless draw in the first leg of their two-game, aggregate goal CONCACAF Champions League quarterfinal series.
The Crew ended the match with 10 players and RSL with just nine after Columbus forward Emilio Renteria and Real Salt Lake defender Nat Borchers exchanged elbows in the 72nd minute, easily the most physical of a testy first match of 2011 for both teams.
Those ejections followed a second yellow card to RSL’s Tony Beltran in the 53rd minute. None of the three players are eligible to play in the decisive series finale, March 1 at Rio Tinto Stadium in Sandy, Utah.
The match-time temperature was 25 degrees with a wind chill of 19, but the only snow in sight was plowed off the field earlier in the day. Still, sections of the stands and areas of the concourse were closed because of ice, and a yellow ball was used before a hearty crowd of 4,665.
RSL played the final 37 minutes down a man after Beltran was issued a caution for his challenge on the Crew’s Eddie Gaven. In the 43rd minute Beltran went hard into Emmanuel Ekpo for his first booking.
Surprisingly, however, it was Real Salt Lake that had the first scoring chance after Beltran hit the showers. Striker Alvaro Saborio drove the ball just outside the right post from 18 yards in for perhaps the team’s best chance of an otherwise sluggish night for head coach Jason Kreis’s offensive-minded group.
Columbus, meanwhile, had to be happy with the opening 45 minutes, considering they went without defenders Shaun Francis and Chad Marshall and used recently signed backup Raymond Burse in goal.
The upstart Crew were the aggressor with the first attempt on goal coming in the third minute, as new right back Sebastian Miranda sent a cross into the box that forward Andres Mendoza half-volleyed over the bar.
Soon after it was the midfielder Ekpo’s turn to miss, with a strike that sailed into the stage at the north end of the stadium.
RSL didn’t give Burse much to do all night, although Fabian Espindola got free inside the penalty area to receive a service from Chris Wingert that he headed well off the target in the fifth minute.
It was left to the Crew to produce the first shot on goal in the 19th minute, when a Mendoza heel flick at the top of the box led Renteria down the right. Renteria drove the ball low, but RSL goalkeeper Nick Rimando was in perfect position for the play, and also grabbed a long free kick by Gaven in the 44th minute.
Despite Beltran’s ejection, the Crew failed to crack an RSL defense that was the best in MLS last season and did their part again this time. The Crew managed just one shot on goal in the match while RSL went without an attempt on target.
RSL also failed to take a corner kick in the match, which was bogged down a bit by the time the match turned testy and Borchers and Rentería were both ejected midway through the second half.
RSL -- Tony Beltran (caution; Reckless Tackle) 42
CLB -- Sebastian Miranda (caution; Tactical Foul) 49
RSL -- Tony Beltran (caution; Reckless Foul) 53
RSL -- Tony Beltran (ejection; Second Caution) 53
RSL -- Kyle Beckerman (caution; Dissent) 53
RSL -- Nat Borchers (ejection; Violent Conduct) 72
CLB -- Emilio Renteria (ejection; Violent Conduct) 72
Real Salt Lake -- Nick Rimando, Tony Beltran, Jamison Olave, Nat Borchers, Chris Wingert, Ned Grabavoy (Andy Williams 81), Javier Morales, Kyle Beckerman, Will Johnson, Fabian Espindola (Robbie Russell 59), Alvaro Saborio.
Substitutes Not Used: Arturo Alvarez, Paulo Araujo Jr., Nelson Gonzalez, Rauwshan McKenzie, Kyle Reynish.
Columbus Crew -- Raymond Burse, Rich Balchan, Andy Iro, Sebastian Miranda, Josh Gardner (Jeff Cunningham 75), Emmanuel Ekpo, Cole Grossman, Eddie Gaven (Leandre Griffit 63), Robbie Rogers, Andres Mendoza (Justin Meram 82), Emilio Renteria.
Substitutes Not Used: Tommy Heinemann, Josh Williams, William Hesmer, Kwaku Nyamekye.
Referee: Jair Marrufo
Referee's Assistants: C.J. Morgante; Eric Boria
4th Official: Ricardo Salazar
Time of Game: 1:50