It’s a big day in Major League Soccer with Columbus once again being the focus of a Saturday in the 2021 season. The Columbus Crew, the defending MLS Cup champions, is set to face the Seattle Sounders in a rematch of last year’s final at Lower.com Field. The two sides played each other in the regular season as well in 2020 with the Black & Gold drawing Seattle 1-1 on the road.
The two teams come into the game playing very differently. The Sounders have won three straight in all competitions with noticeable victories against Tigres in the Leagues Cup and the Portland Timbers on the road. Columbus has lost five consecutive matches for the longest losing streak for a defending champion since the 2006 LA Galaxy.
We talked to Sounder at Heart writer Dave Clark to get a better sense of what the Sounders have been up to since losing MLS Cup last December in Ohio.
Questions for Sounders At Heart
Massive Report: It was surely a tough winter for the Sounders after trying to swallow the pill of the MLS Cup loss to Columbus. Has this team and coaching staff used what happened on that December night to fuel this incredible start to 2021?
Sounder at Heart: Head coach Brian Schmetzer doesn’t spend a lot of time looking backwards, with the key exception being a playoff loss to the Timbers back ‘15. There’s little evidence he’s concerned with MLS Cup ‘20. There’s been a lot of changes of personnel and the team-first attitude this year is more intense. It should also be noted that the coaching staff is about to shift significantly as coaches Gonzalo Pineda left for Atlanta and Djimi Traore is leaving for a European club that hasn’t yet announced his arrival.
The remaining staff will look at how to win this game, little else.
MR: Sounders have six different players going to Los Angeles for the MLS All-Star Game and for good reason. Which of those All-Stars has stood out the most thus far in the season?
SaH: He’s already one of the most well-known players on the Seattle roster, but I want to shine the light brightly on Raúl Ruidíaz. He was already the best scorer on the team. Rui’s had some good years, but never exploded like he has in 2021. At the age of 31, Raúl has leveled up. His best scoring season with the Sounders prior to this year was 12 goals in 17 matches last year. He’s cruising to a full season where 20 seems likely, and then some poor team is going to suffer through his usual playoff performances when he scores at a greater rate than he does in the regular season. It may not be fair. Oh well.
MR: I think it’s fair to say when previewing the MLS season no one expected the Crew to enter this MLS Cup rematch on a five-game losing skid. Do you think the Sounders are more wary of a Crew side desperate for a win and as underdogs in this game?
Sounder at Heart: All chatter has been about how the run of form underrates Columbus’s true talent level. Crew aren’t a 1.20 ppg team. Even with their injuries Schmetzer thinks higher of them than that.
From the blog side of things Crew added a ton of talent in the offseason, a rarity for a good team in MLS. They should probably be up around that 2-4 range looking at a home game, not a side hoping to scrape their way into the playoffs. With a match on the road, where almost every away team in the league is an underdog, my hope is for a draw and my dream is a win. It’s not like you’re Toronto.
To read Massive Report’s answers to Sounder at Heart’s question, click here.