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Old Faces and New Challenges Make Seattle Sounders Another Stepping Stone

The Crew face another difficult task when they travel to take on the Sounders Saturday in Seattle.

Joshua S. Kelly-USA TODAY Sports

In 19 years of play, no man made more appearances in the Columbus Crew kit than Chad Marshall. The defender played in 253 games for the Black and Gold in his decade with the club.

On Saturday, Marshall will make his fourth appearance with his new club, the Seattle Sounders, after being traded in the offseason, but this time he will face some familiar faces.

The Crew travel to Seattle this weekend and it will be a chance for old teammates to go head to head.

"We're all happy for him and we're excited for his new opportunity and I think it's going to be a little bit of a pinch me moment when we see him," Eric Gehrig said. "But at the end of the day there's a job to do and I think if you asked Chad, he'd say the same thing.

"At the end of the game, until the 90 minutes, it's all business and after we can have some hugs and that kind of stuff."

As Gehrig, who was a teammates of Marshall's for three seasons, said, during the game it's all about executing. New Columbus Head Coach Gregg Berhalter addressed Marshall's ability when asked about him going against his old team for the first time.

"We focused on obviously his ability first, how he's good on set pieces defensive and offensively," he said.

He also pointed out that Marshall's former teammates can be advantageous for the Crew.

"Guys are familiar with him," Berhalter said. "They know him, they know what kind of runs he likes to make. He's still a handful on those things."

Marshall is not the only player Columbus will be concentrating on as the Sounders have lots of weapons, even with midfielder Clint Dempsey serving the second of his two-match suspension. Forwards Obafemi Martins and Kenny Cooper and midfielder Lamar Neagle have proven they can all cause havoc, especially on the counter.

"Neagle's quick, Martins is quick, and Cooper's a big boy so they can hurt you on the transition and for sure that is something we have to eliminate," Michael Parkhurst said.

The transition was an issue last week against the Philadelphia Union, who put the Crew under pressure for the better part of the second half. Seattle will look to do that as well and a player like Martins makes them hard to defend.

"We have to be aware of where he is at all times," Parkhurst said. "He likes to drift, he drops deep sometimes, he drifts wide. He's all over the place so it's important to know where he is and that we pass him off to guys so we're not just following him all around the field and getting ourselves out of position."

Martins' movement can create issues, but the Black and Gold have a similar player in Federico Higuain. The Crew's number 10 also drifts and defending someone like him in practice could give Columbus insight in defending Martins.

The Sounders' talent makes them a difficult team to play, but their home field advantage is one of the best in MLS. The Emerald City Supporters are one thing, but the wet turf adds another dynamic.

"We know that going there with the turf and the wet is going to be a little different, but I think if we play our game and focus on the things we've worked on and talked about, we'll be in good shape," Gehrig said.

Berhalter admitted that they focused on playing into feet this week in practice as opposed to space because the turf - especially when wet - can cause the ball to skip and go long. He also pointed out that both teams play on the same surface and Columbus has experience on turf from preseason.

After all the distractions - reuniting with Marshall, the big names, the crowd, and the turf - this boils down to another soccer match. For the Crew, it will be about getting a result and gauging themselves against one of the league's most consistent teams.

"It's a good team. We looked at some games so far throughout this tenure as measuring stick games and this is one of them," Berhalter said.

"We'll see where we're at after that game."

Projected Starting XI

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