Real Salt Lake ranks as one of the poorer offensive teams in the league. If Jean Alexandre's most recent effort is any indication, the club may have found a solution to its scoring woes.
Alexandre looks to build on his first career MLS points as visiting Real Salt Lake tries to extend the Columbus Crew's season-worst winless streak to six games Wednesday night.
The 24-year-old Alexandre, a former midfielder, continues to adapt to his new forward position but came up with a goal and an assist in Saturday's 2-0 victory over Vancouver. He keyed RSL (6-2-2) ending a three-game winless stretch.
"He's still learning a little bit about the proper runs to be making to try and get in behind a little more often," coach Jason Kreis said. "He was more responsible with possession when it was played to him ... of course, the goal that unlocked things for us was special; it was a little bit of an individual effort."
Kreis' club had scored a combined two goals in five games prior to Saturday and is tied for 11th in the league with 1.20 goals per match. However, the team seems to have a new offensive threat at its disposal, even though Alexandre knows he still has lots of room for improvement.
"I got to get used to making runs versus shuffling back and forth for the ball like I'm playing center mid," he said. "I've got a lot of work to do."
The club continues to play without midfielder Javier Morales, who remains out indefinitely after breaking his left ankle in a 1-0 win over Chivas USA on May 7. Forward Fabian Espindola has stepped up in his absence and tied for the team lead with his second goal of the year Saturday.
"It was very gratifying to see," Kreis said of Espindola's effort. "... He's taking a few more risks than typical. I think he's doing that because he knows that someone has to make a difference for us right now and he is trying to be that guy."
Alexandre and Espindola will look to keep up their impressive play against Columbus (3-3-6), which has gone 0-2-3 since defeating the visiting Whitecaps 2-1 on April 30. However, the Crew are 3-0-3 at home.
In Columbus' most recent game, defenseman Rich Balchan scored in stoppage time Saturday to force a 1-1 draw at New York.
While the Crew avoided their third loss in four matches, they probably would have walked away with three points if not for forward Andres Mendoza's inability to convert on two easy scoring opportunities.
"I think we have to look at the positive," coach Robert Warzycha told the Crew's official website. "He's in the right place at the right time. Obviously finishing is another thing, but at least he's getting chances."
Columbus could find itself short-handed Wednesday. Emilio Renteria, who leads the team with four goals, is expected to miss a third straight match with a left quadriceps strain. Rookie forward Justin Meram had to leave Monday's practice (illness) and is uncertain to play.
RSL will be without goalkeeper Nick Rimando (United States), midfielder Will Johnson (Canada) and forwards Arturo Alvarez (El Salvador) and Alvaro Saborio (Costa Rica), who are with their respective national teams for the CONCACAF Gold Cup. The Crew will be without midfielder Robbie Rogers (U.S.).