It's been a little over two years since Columbus Crew SC broke the hearts of the Seattle Sounders. In that dramatic 2-1 win for the Black & Gold, it was Justin Meram who came off the bench to score a 94th minute stoppage time winner at CenturyLink Field.
Fast forward two seasons and both teams are well below expectations seven games into 2016. After beginning the year without a win in the first five games, Crew SC has won two matches in a row. Both of those games were at the friendly confines of MAPFRE Stadium, but now Columbus goes back out on the road.
While the Sounders also have two wins on the season, the Rave Green have lost four matches already this year. The offense hasn't quite come together after the offseason the departure of Obafemi Martins.
Both teams continue to figure things out in this young season and hope for a third victory of the year in this Saturday afternoon contest.
To get more of an idea as to what fans should expect from in this one, we spoke with Dave Clark of Sounder at Heart.
Questions for Sounder at Heart
Massvie Report: Had I asked you before the season for your expectations for the Sounders through seven matches, what would your response have been? If you expected a better start, what hasn't gone the way fans thought?
Sounder at Heart: All signs pointed to a squad that if they played at that level would compete for both the Shield and the Cup. Not only have they not performed at that level, they've been, at best, average offensively and great defensively with a horrible performance in the loss to the Rapids.
The reasons are numerous. They don't have Roman Torres yet, as he is still recovering from ACL surgery. A dynamic between Clint Dempsey and Jordan Morris was always going to take time. With Oba, that would all be different. We're getting to that in a bit. There's still plenty of talent here. Shifting to a new formation with significantly different expectations for Dempsey, Andreas Ivanschitz and Nelson Haedo Valdez was going to take time no matter what. Still, the team looked really good against Club America. The fall off from that isn't just about the loss of Oba, it's deeper.
MR: Crew SC fans are familiar with Chad Marshall as a goal scorer from the MLS Cup year of 2008 when he scored a career high four goals, but he already has two this season, tied for best on the team. What's wrong with the offense right now? Is it as simple as losing Obafemi Martins?
SaH: Losing an MVP candidate with no replacement sucks. Ideally a combination of Morris, Valdez and Ivanschitz would pick up the offense that Oba brought and Morris would slide into the role as Clint's bff. Even if all of that happened the offense was going to take a dip until new talent showed up. Seattle also lost Pappa, Neagle and Barrett. President of Soccer Garth Lagerwey claims that they have space for both a DP and a TAM level talent. Those two additions are supposed to be a primary provider type, most likely a #10 but maybe on the wing and either a box-to-box type or a winger. Seattle will look better when that happens, but it is doubtful that both happen during the current transfer window. They also added Herculez Gomez, which has helped how the attack looks, even if he hasn't scored.
MR: Seattle and Columbus have had some open and entertaining games over the last two years. Do you expect this one be in a similar vein at CenturyLink Field?
SaH: No. I currently have no expectations for entertaining Sounders soccer. I think they can grind out wins still. The defense is good enough to do that. Dempsey and Jordan can nab a goal from nothing, and the set-piece attack is quite good. While there may be people entertained by a style that could be called bunker-and-hope I won't be. This game has 1-0, 1-1 written all over it. I expect long sequences of "huh." I hope to see the Crew again, because right now both teams are not what they were expected to be.
To read Massive Report's answers to Sounder at Heart, head over to their site.