Three things to look for in Sounders vs Columbus Crew

Apr 29, 2016, 2:02 PM | Updated: 2:54 pm
The Crew's Kei Kamara was initially drafted by Columbus when Sigi Schmid was the team's coach. (AP)...
The Crew's Kei Kamara was initially drafted by Columbus when Sigi Schmid was the team's coach. (AP)

The Seattle Sounders will be looking for some redemption after a poor performance in Colorado last weekend left them limping back into town. The Sounders host the Columbus Crew in an early match on Saturday (kickoff 1 p.m.) at CenturyLink Field, and Sigi Schmid’s men will be hoping to get things back on track with a win over last season’s MLS Cup finalists.

The Crew have had a similar start to the season as Seattle, carrying a 2-3-2 record that has them currently in seventh place in the Eastern Conference. Columbus is currently on a two-game winning streak, though, so it will be flying high to visit a Sounders team fresh off the worst loss of their season. Schmid will be facing his old team, which he left to coach the Sounders after winning the MLS Cup with the Crew in 2008. Schmid also drafted Kei Kamara while with the Crew, who returned to Columbus in 2015 a much better player than the one who left in 2007.

Related: After ugly loss, Sounders must right the ship against Columbus

Here are three things to keep an eye out for during Seattle’s 1 p.m. match (pregame coverage on KIRO Radio 97.3 FM begins at 12:30):

1. The injury bug strikes again. Both teams had a handful of players considered questionable, but Seattle’s potential absences are much more crucial. Last weekend, the Sounders were without Clint Dempsey and Nelson Valdez, who were late scratches from the traveling squad due to minor injuries. Both players were back in training this week, but Andreas Ivanschitz came off in the match in Colorado with what turned out to be a thigh strain is unavailable for Saturday. To make matters worse, Jordan Morris, who has scored twice in as many matches, left training on Thursday with Sigi Schmid’s usual answer for such instances – “tightness.”

2. Zach Scott returns. The season hasn’t been kind to Seattle’s longest-tenured player; Zach Scott has been with Seattle before the team had even become an MLS franchise. A fan favorite and likely team employee after he undoubtedly retires at the end of this season, the 35-year-old Scott has his pros and cons. Dominant in the air and a fierce leader, the defender has lost more than a few steps of pace, which occasionally leaves him stranded out of position at times. Seattle’s defense had improved upon Brad Evans’ return against the Montreal Impact, and the matches that Scott started ended in losses. Scott will need to play very wisely against a strong Columbus attack and focus on winning the aerial duels, dispossessing opponents near the goal, and play short passes to players more suited to start counterattacks.

3. Home field advantage. Schmid said after Wednesday’s training session that he wanted the fans to continue to make CenturyLink Field “our fortress,” especially because Columbus has been woeful away from home this season. The Crew have only scored two goals out of their four away matches this season, two of which ended in draws and two in losses. CenturyLink famously has one of the greatest atmospheres not only in MLS, but in all of world soccer at times. On what should be a beautiful April afternoon, the fans need to be out in full force to help their limping Sounders to victory. But don’t expect Columbus to roll over too easily; the Crew have a solid defense led by Argentinian Gaston Sauro and former USMNT center back Michael Parkhurst. It won’t be the best defense the Sounders have faced this season, but the Crew will likely be parking the bus in Seattle and could prove difficult to break down. Look for whoever plays on Seattle’s left side, hopefully Oalex Anderson, to use their technique and ball control against Crew right-back Harrison Afful, who has been dribbled past eight times (third most in the league for right-backs) and has also fouled the opposition eight times. This could be an area for Seattle to exploit to its benefit.

Spenser Davis also covers the Sounders for Sounder at Heart.

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Three things to look for in Sounders vs Columbus Crew