Ah, Columbus Ohio - land of great sushi?
While this is a home coming for Sigi, Ezra and Brad. It is also in ways a homecoming for myself. While I did not travel, I have some Ohio roots, but more importantly my MLS roots are with the Crew and Brian McBride. During MLS 1.0 I followed Columbus on internet radio. I discovered the sport through them playing at the Horseshoe of Ohio State University. My favorite MLS memory was the opening of Crew Stadium, at least until Drew Carey walked into the George & Dragon to "pre-announce" that Seattle would be joining the league.
So the Crew appeal to me in ways that no other team in the league ever will.
Currently the Crew control their destiny. Not only are they the likely team for the Supporters Shield for second year, they must be favorites for the MLS Cup, oh and they seem like they have a chance to come out of the Group stages of the CCL. They, and Houston, are clearly the class of the league right now. How have they gotten there, and how will Seattle beat them?
Set Plays - Guillermo Barros Schelotto - Intimate Knowledge
This is not the usual refrain about how the Sounders need to improve on offense. In this case we are talking about the very success of the opposing club. The Columbus Crew have 13 goals (yes, 5 are PKs) off of the set play. But still 6 goals off of corners, 1 on a direct kick and another off of an indirect. That is rather potent, Seattle only has only 5 goals on the Set.
So this isn't just a "Seattle needs to score more" statement, but a Seattle needs to defend these better. I may even say that the outlet man should not be at the center circle, but pulled back to about 25 yards. This puts them in position for the short pass, or for the rebound. It offers just a touch of help so that the Crew can't get a goal in these circumstances.
Offensively, maybe Seattle should shift their plan a bit. Have Riley take the kicks from the right side and Leo from the left. Yes, those two are the safeties at this point hanging out in the center circle with the oppositions lone forward. In this method the other man in that would either be Brad Evans or Pete Vagenas - whoever is on the pitch. This puts more offensive players into offensive positions. Honestly, Seattle isn't going to win a header, so they might as well have players that can score with their feet into the 18.
Guillermo Barros Schelotto
Yes, he's likley the best set-play man in the league. Even better than the more famous DP with that modeling contract. Last year he was an assist machine and won the MVP. This year he's been scoring, and could be the very rare player that leads the league in assists one year and goals the next. Seattle can't really defend him on the set though, so the key is to foul even less than usual.
Columbus runs a 4-4-1 with GBS having a floating role similar to Blanco. He gets to go where he wants and when he wants to. A few months ago we would have though that Alonso was the key to stopping him. Tonight I suggest something different. Jhon Kennedy Hurtado has the footspeed on the positioning skills to defend anyone in the league. He could mark GBS where ever he is. Deny the Argentine the ball. This is truly a case of how one player can be the difference. Mark him tightly, whether its Evans, Vagenas or Hurtado, GBS should never get the ball inside of 30 yards. That might still be too close...
Statistically, GBS is the only player (min 1000 minutes) on the Crew to have more than a .60 PP90. He's at a 1.54 with Gaven and Ekpo at 0.51. Alejandro Moreno is at 0.54 as target forward.
Seattle has a small advantage here in that two coaches and the best tactical player on the squad know the Crew better than you, I or maybe even Robert Warzycha. More than almost any match this is a case of where the best coach could and should win. On that charter plane that Seattle flew each player should have been given video to review and study during the flight.
But it isn't just in the flight. There is so much opportunity to show the players how player X prefers his left foot, or player Y hates to be pushed outside. The Seattle players have to be their most coachable this week. No other opponent offers this advantage like C-bus. Use it.
Friday's Galaxy v Fire match doesn't really effect the Sounders chances. Either team is likely in the Playoffs already. I guess you could hope for Fire win just so the Galaxy get knocked down a peg so Seattle might sneak into the 2 seed in the West.
Chivas @ DC and New England @ Colorado though have huge impacts. Welcome to scoreboard watching. Ideally both are draws.
Cunningham was the Player of the Month. It shouldn't have been close. It was. Maybe his storied attitude is a problem.
Mr Montero, if you want the Golden Boot for your third straight season, you have to catch Casey and Cunningham. That means just a few hat tricks in these last few weeks.