The Sounders have been the hottest team in Major League Soccer since mid-July, and will try to keep it going Saturday when they meet the Crew in Columbus.
MATCH: Seattle Sounders FC (11-8-4, 37 points, T5, MLS West) at Columbus Crew (8-12-5, 29 points, 8th, MLS East). TYPE: MLS. WHEN: Saturday, 4:30 p.m, Crew Stadium. MEETING: 8th (series tied 3-1-3). TV: KONG. RADIO: 97.3 KIRO FM; SPANISH: KOMO2 (Comcast Ch. 114) and La Gran D 99.3 FM.
Sunday’s 1-0 victory over the Portland Timbers, which attracted a record crowd of 67, 385 to CenturyLink Field, pushed the Sounders into the fifth and final playoff spot in the Western Conference, a good starting point for the next eight days, during which Seattle will play three matches starting with the Columbus Crew Saturday in Ohio.
Winners of four of their past five, the Sounders have at least two games in hand on every Western Conference playoff opponent. They oppose a Columbus side (8-12-5, 29 points) that has lost four of six, including a 4-0 drubbing administered by Real Salt Lake last weekend.
The Sounders have played at least two fewer games than every conference opponent, including four fewer than Real Salt Lake and three fewer than Colorado. Eight of Seattle’s 11 remaining games are against West opponents, including the final five.
Seattle has a favorable history against Columbus, having outscored the Crew 14-7 in seven matches, including 6-1 at Crew Stadium. The Sounders have scored in six of the seven meetings and held the Crew scoreless twice.
The Sounders will catch a break Saturday. Originally they would have faced two of the league’s top 10 goal scorers in Federico Higuain and Dominic Oduro. Both have nine goals, which ranks seventh in MLS, and both have started all 25 games for the Crew.
But Higuain, in his first full year with Columbus after joining the club midway through 2012, is out due to a suspension, leaving Oduro to pick up the slack.
An eight-year MLS veteran, Oduro is enjoying one of his best seasons. His nine-goal output is already his second-highest season total, after scoring 12 with the Chicago Fire in 2011.
The Sounders are 2-0-1 all-time in Columbus, where Sigi Schmid, who won an MLS Cup in 2008, previously coached.
“I always have a good feeling there,” Schmid told soundersfc.com. “I think the fans reception before the game has always been very good and very positive. Obviously when the game starts, I know they are behind the Crew and they are against us, but before the game, they are very good.”
Schmid is expected to start Eddie Johnson and Clint Dempsey at the forward spots with second-leading scorer Lamar Neagle taking a midfield role. Obafemi Martins, who sat out Sundauy, is questionable as he nurses an ankle sprain.
“It’s an important game, but we try to approach every game with the same attitude and the same idea of trying to win,” said Schmid.
Largest Seattle Soccer Crowds
|2013||Aug. 25||Sounders vs. Portland||MLS||CenLink||67,385|
|2011||July 20||Sounders vs. Manchester U.||Friendly||CenLink||67,052|
|2009||Aug. 5||Sounders vs. Barcelona||Friendly||CenLink||66,848|
|2006||Aug. 9||Real Madrid-D.C. United||Friendly||CenLink||66,830|
|2003||July 22||Manchester U. vs. Celtic||Friendly||CenLink||66,722|
|2012||Oct. 7||Sounders vs. Portland||MLS||CenLink||66,452|
|2009||July 18||Sounders vs. Chelsea||Friendly||CenLink||65,289|
|2011||Oct. 15||Sounders vs. San Jose||MLS||CenLink||64,140|
|2012||Aug. 5||Sounders vs. LA Galaxy||MLS||CenLink||60,908|
|1976||April 9||Sounders vs. NY Cosmos||NASL||Kingdome||58,218|
|2008||April 16||Mexico vs. China||Friendly||Cen Link||56,416|
SOUNDERS PROBABLE LINEUP: Goalkeeper — Michael Gspurning. Defenders — DeAndre Yedlin, Jhon Kennedy Hurtado, Zach Scott, Leo Gonzalez. Midfielders — Osvaldo Alonso, Shalrie Joseph, Brad Evans, Lamar Neagle. Forwards — Clint Dempsey, Eddie Johnson.
CREW PROBABLE LINEUP: Goalkeeper — Matt Lampson. Defenders — Chad Barson, Josh Williams, Chad Marshall, Agustin Viana. Midfielders — Dominic Oduro, Will Trapp, Danny O’Rourke, Ben Speas Forwards — Ryan Finley, Jairo Arrieta.
INJURIES: Seattle — Out, GK Josh Ford (right patella fracture), F Will Bates (right knee), MF Steve Zakuani (sports hernia surgery); Questionable, FW Obafemi Martins (left ankle sprain), MF Shalrie Joseph (right knee sprain), D Dylan Remick (left hamstring strain). Columbus — Out, MF Eddie Gaven (ACL surgery), D Glauber (ACL surgery), GL Andy Gruenebaum (shoulder weakness), MF Matias Sanchez (left calf strain); Questionable, F Justin Meram (back spasms), MF Bernardo Anor (right hamstring), F Aaron Schoenfeld (right shoulder sprain). SUSPENSIONS: Seattle — None. Columbus — Federico Higuain. INTERNATIONAL DUTY: Seattle — None; Columbus — None.
SERIES: Dates to May 30, 2009, when the Sounders and Crew played to a 1-1 draw in front of 29,126 at Qwest Field, Seattle’s goal coming from Nate Jaqua. Sounders hold a 3-1-3 record in MLS play and 4-1-3 record in all competitions (one U.S. Open Cup match). Sounders have twice beaten Columbus by four-goal margins (4-0, 6-2) and lead in aggregate goals 14-7 in MLS play. Teams last met May 23, 2012 CenturyLink Field, Columbus winning 2-0.
SOUNDERS STATS / NOTES
Obafemi Martins has four game-winning goals (T4) and Mauro Rosales four game-winning assists (T3).
Sounders have won six season series: Chivas USA, Dallas, D.C. United, Kansas City, Portland and Toronto.
With Sunday’s victory, the Sounders reclaimed the top spot in the Cascadia Cup with seven points through four matches.
Sounders FC has the fourth-most wins (11) in MLS this season and allowed the fewest goals (11) in the second half, including four goals in the final half hour.
Sounders are unbeaten in 43 straight games (35-0-8) when scoring first.
Last Sunday night’s attendance of 67,385 was the largest for a soccer game in Seattle. It also marked the second-largest attendance in MLS history for a stand-alone match, and the third-largest worldwide last weekend.
SOUNDERS MLS LEADERS
|Starts||Gonzalez 21, Traore 21, Yedlin 19|
|Goals||Martins 7, Johnson 6, Neagle 5|
|Assists||Rosales 6, Evans 5, Martins 3, Neagle 3|
|Shots||Johnson 38, Neagle 37, Martins 30|
|Shots On Goal||Johnson 19, Neagle 14, Martins 12|
|Fouls Caused||Alonso 34, Neagle 30, Yedlin 24|
|Fouls Suffered||Johnson 32, Alonso 24, Rosales 23|
|Offsides||Johnson 28, Neagle 8, Evans 7|
|Corner Kicks||Rosales 68, Martinez 17, Neagle 14|
|Cautions||Johnson 6, Traore 4, Hurtado 4|
|Ejections||6 tied with 1 each|
COMING UP: Sounders return home for three: Chivas USA Wednesday, Chicago Fire Sept. 7 and Real Salt Lake Sept. 13.
Seattle Sounders FC 2013 Schedule / Results
(11-8-4, 37 points, MLS; 1-1-0 CCL; 0-1-0 U.S. Open Cup)
|3/6||*at Tigres||7:00||Fox Soccer||L||1-0||0-0-0|
|3/23||^at San Jose||7:30||KING 5||L||1-0||0-2-1|
|5/26||^at LA Galaxy||8:00||ESPN2||L||4-0||4-4-3|
|7/13||^at San Jose||7:30||KING||L||1-0||7-7-3|
|9/21||^at LA Galaxy||7:30||NBCSN||—||—||—|
|10/19||^at FC Dallas||1:00||NBCSN||—||—||—|
*=CONCACAF; ^=Major League Soccer; #=U.S. Open Cup