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Scouting Report: Columbus Crew

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The Sounders will probably have their hands full with ball-of-energy Steven Lenhart.
The Sounders will probably have their hands full with ball-of-energy Steven Lenhart.

Coming off a pair of games against two of the worst (by record anyway) teams in MLS, the Sounders must get ready for one of the league's two remaining undefeated teams in the Columbus Crew (2-0-1, 7 points).

The fact that the Crew are once again one of the league's elite teams should surprise no one. The team's only notable loss from its Supporter's Shield-winning side of a year ago was Alejandro Moreno, and he was replaced Sergio Herrera, who could see significant time this week.

Although the Crew will be without two of their top defenders, Chad Marshall and Gino Padula, there really isn't an obvious weakness on the team. The attack has several significant weapons, the back line is sound and keeper William Hesmer is as good as any in MLS.

 

Once again, the Crew are led by the seemingly ageless Guillermo Barros Schelloto -- who appears to be playing after some speculation that he would sit out the game. Although he plays a very similar position to what  Freddie Ljungberg has been doing this year (basically a withdrawn forward), he's taken on much more of the scoring duties. In their three MLS games this year, Schelloto has three goals -- including Saturday's penalty kick that was the only score of the game -- and an assist. Schelloto also had a pair of goals in the Crew's CONCACAF Champions League series with Toluca.

That doesn't mean he's a "scorer", necessarily. Schelloto's game is stil very much about being a playmaker and setting up teammates.

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While none of his teammates have displayed the scoring touch of Schelloto, there are several dangerous players on the field at any given time for the Crew.

The most obvious from a visual standpoint is Steven Lenhart, who plays a pretty classic target forward position. The mop-topped blonde uses his 6-foot-1, 190-pound frame to ward off defenders and cause havoc in the offensive third. He only has seven career goals, but has a PP90 of .94, and appears to be taking on an increased role this year.

Robbie Rogers, who got a decent look for the U.S. National Team, has a solid right-footed shot off the right wing, and has 10 career goals in 59 MLS games. Eddie Gaven, the man on the left wing, is probably the closest thing the Crew have to a proven scorer outside of Schelloto, with 34 career goals and 25 assists in 180 games. At times, central defender Andy Iro has joined the attack, scoring one goal this year and nearly scoring another last week.

Frankie Hejduk, a longtime USMNT contributor, is the current leader of the defense -- with Marshall out -- and appears to have plenty left in his 35-year-old legs. 

Hesmer has already registered two clean sheets this year in just three games, the one exception being the two goals he allowed in a tie against Dallas FC. 

On both offense and defense, the Sounders will be tested this week. In order to pull out three points, they will almost certainly have to find a way to mix the passing proficiency we saw on Sunday with an improved ability to finish some of their opportunities.

If there's one chink in the Crew's armor, it is probably the defense where Iro is playing out of position and Danny O'Rourke is not normally a starter.