After another US Open Cup Qualifier win on Tuesday Sounders look to end their league match draw streak at four and pick up three points with a win over Sigi's old club. Sounders fans can take solace in the fact that Columbus has an even rougher schedule as they played at home Wednesday and wore themselves out, and join the Sounders with significant injuries.
First the fitness report for the Crew
Injured: OUT: MF Adam Moffat (L hamstring strain); DF Andy Iro (L quad strain) MF Brian Carroll (I added this to the official report, as it was filed prior to the extent of his injuries); GK William Hesmer (lumbar back strain); QUESTIONABLE: DF Frankie Hejduk (L groin strain)
Full 90 on Wednesday for "regulars" - Gaven, Schelleto, Marshall, A.Moreno, Padula, Rogers. Ekpo played 58 minutes. The Crew should be a bit tired from a tough match against the Crew with 8 of their top 11 outfield players either injured or having played 90, and Ekpo playing nearly 60 as well.
With the Crew, on the road, and at this level of fitness, missing Hejduk and Carroll look for them to play the tie. They've only picked up 3 points (all from ties) in road matches so far.
Carroll played the CDM in a 4-1-3-1-1, and his replacement came on for his first match. O'Rourke is listed as the likely starter there, but anything could happen for their formation with the exception that GBS will be a withdrawn forward. That is for certain.
Seattle has its own injury issues with Alonso Out, and Evans still a question. The listed starter is Vagenas with the best two CDMs being out and Ianni playing a tough 90 in the Open Cup Qualifier. Seb Le Toux is nearly certain to start at the Right Midfield.
With their keeper giving up 1.40 GAA on only 18 shots in five matches, it essential that Seattle pepper their pipes and force him to make the saves. This is counter to the nature of Seattle as the Sounders have only averaged 3.2 shots on goal a match. While impressively netting over a third of those. If Seattle runs the rapid transition game again, they should build on those numbers a bit.
Current Sounders Productivity (US OCQ not included)
From the Crew their top three on that measure are;
GBS - 1.37
Ekpo - 0.76
Gaven - 0.40
Not the best game to have the Rave Green's best defensive player out, but maybe we see Hurtado play further up further in front of Marshalll than usual, marking the skillful Argentine almost as a defensive midfielder would.
There is also the issue of Left Back for the Sounders with Ekpo running on that side, it means that Sturgis must have a stronger match, and if not fully fit, needs to defer quickly so that Wahl, Ianni or even Brown could take that duty.
Offensively Seattle looks to continue the form that has them with 1.67 Goals for in all matches in which Keller plays 90. There's a reason the club is +9 (MLS only) with him on the pitch, and it isn't just his spectacular saves (congrats on the Save of the Week).
This should be a victory for the Rave Green, and it would end all those silly conversations about Sounders FC falling the rankings due to "form" that ignore the reasons behind those struggles. Still in 3rd overall and 2nd in the West, Seattle's opportunity for the Triple Remains alive with Chivas USA losing in their midweek match and following that up on Sunday.
How would you approach this one if you were Sigi?