Two teams looking to rebound from midweek road defeats will square off at MAPFRE Stadium Saturday night, when Columbus Crew SC host the Seattle Sounders. Columbus is looking to put their nearly 300-minute goal drought in the rearview mirror, after once again failing to score a goal and suffering another defeat. The 1-0 loss on Wednesday to Real Salt Lake was their third consecutive defeat, extending their winless streak to seven matches.
Across the pitch, we have the Sounders (8-5-5), who are now winless in eight consecutive road games following a 3-0 loss to New York City FC Wednesday. The Sounders team that struggled so mightily on Wednesday is likely to look much different in Columbus. Head Coach Brian Schmetzer’s group versus NYCFC was a ragtag group slapped together due to injuries, international duty and fatigue from a compact schedule. The Sounders will have two key components of the spine of their team back, with Nicolas Lodeiro and Roman Torres returning from international competition.
Working in the Crew’s favor, is Seattle’s propensity to struggle away from Century Link Field this year. On the road, Seattle has compiled a dreadful 1-5-3 record. The Rave Green and Blue will be minus Will Bruin, who is out for the season with a knee injury. Still, the Sounders engine is undoubtedly Lodeiro. The playmaker has been away fulfilling his national team commitments with Uruguay. He will return looking to rectify the squad’s recent struggles.
Seattle Sounders at a glance
Record: 8-5-5, 29 points (3rd in Western Conference)
Leading Scorers: Raúl Ruidíaz (6) / Kelvin Leerdam (5)
Assist Leader: Nicolás Lodeiro (8)
One player who will not be facing the Crew this weekend is former center back, Chad Marshall. He recently retired due to consistent head injuries and was provided quite the retirement ceremony by Seattle just last week. Marshall was a rock for the Crew during their MLS Cup championship in 2008 and continued to be one for Seattle during their title run in 2016. Often overlooked and under appreciated, the 6-foot-4 center back is the most dependable and consistent defender this MLS has ever seen. The big man will be missed by many throughout the league, minus the forwards that had to do battle against him.
How Seattle Play
Seattle has a very stout defense, starting with goalkeeper Stefan Frei. The Swiss netminder has been one of the most consistent shot stoppers in MLS over the last five seasons. With Roman Torres, the physical rugged defender, partnered next to Designated Player, Xavier Arreaga, Seattle has quite the center back duo. Schmetzer loves to push his outside backs into the attacking-third of the field, so don’t be surprised to see Kelvin Leerdam and Brad Smith involved in the offense early and often. Surprisingly, Seattle’s second leading scorer is Leerdam. The Dutch man has five goals on the season, including a last second game-winner versus arch-rival Vancouver Whitecaps last weekend.
On the attack, Seattle can break out with the best in MLS. Particularly when Lodeiro is orchestrating the show. The Crew’s backline gets a reprieve from their top two forwards, Raul Ruidiaz and U.S. Men’s National Team forward, Jordan Morris, who are both representing their respective national teams. Despite that advantage, Seattle possesses the ability to outrun oppositions with their speedy pairing of Joevin Jones and Justin Dhillon. Ultimately, the level of how their offense produces will be predicated on Lodeiro. He can score, create, and distribute. The Crew must focus on shutting him down. Whether it is Artur or David Guzman harassing him wherever he goes, the Uruguayan cannot be left unscathed.
Projected Sounders Lineup
How the Crew Can Win
At this point, we can just copy and paste “finish their chances” for this subsection of the scouting report. It truly is that simple. Columbus must start putting shots on goal and in the back of the net. If the Crew continues to struggle to score or even get shots on goal, they will simply not earn a positive result. Should they break the drought, perhaps it will be the first of many dominoes to fall as the summer season heats up. Columbus has created oodles of chances this campaign, but finishing them has been troublesome. To turn that stat around, would be the start of salvaging the season.