Columbus continues to be one of the best teams in the league. A trend that started three seasons ago under Sigi, and has continued as they retain almost all of their key players, and all coaches not named Sigi. With such light turnover leading them to two Supporter Shields, an MLS Cup and a 2010 season in which they look as strong as ever it leaves to wonder why Seattle would rather copy Toronto than Columbus.
The Sounders have a few injuries again, and so the lineup will call on Sigi's creativity. Players like Nate Sturgis and David Estrada will have the opportunity to continue to show that they belong on the pitch and are gaining valuable experiences in League play that should carry over to Cup competition in just a few more weeks.
1 - Sigi's Game - It has been tough at home, but we just don't see the crisp, rapid passing game at home that we see on the road (like at Toronto, well two passes sucked). The Sounders need to use their passing along diagonal lines and close to the ground to switch from defense to counter quickly without resorting to the long air game. They need to work like craftsmen with delicate cuts, rather than breaking rocks by hand.
There are the necessary players on the roster with the ball control and passing skills, but occaissional lack of discipline puts the team out of its game. Maybe a slight lineup shift could result in better distribution of the more technical players around the pitch. Ljungberg sliding out right would limit his touches, but would strengthen the team's play along that line. Dropping Montero back would put him into a spot where he would be forced to maintain focus rather than just waiting for the rest of the team, it would mean that his activity level off the ball would have to increase.
2 - Finish - Yep, I'm that lame. I'm going for the lay-up. I can't blame Seattle's midfielders for providing lack of service, that isn't the issue. The issue that prevented Seattle from being in the upper tier of teams right now lie on just a few misplaced shots. Individuals missed sitters at Dallas, and in Toronto the chances were there. But we are also talking about players that were forced into service in unfamiliar roles due to the injury bug.
But Brad Evans is a scorer. Roger Levesque has a history of goals. Nate Sturgis had his opportunity. The situation is not dire. Increasing the conversion rate just a touch would move Seattle from a middle of the pack team to one of the best. With Montero taking Free Kicks and putting them on goal, with Ljungberg creating on the corners and Zakuani abusing Jesus Hejduk on the wing there are goals to be had agains the Crew.
3 - Zakuani Down the Left- Frankie Hejduk is a good player. A solid defender that gets forward and provides service. He's the type of wingback that Sigi adores, and is what he hopes to recreate with Riley and any draft pick that Seattle uses on that role (like Brown, Karkas, Wallace). But he's also older and slower. A player with Zakuani's speed can really abuse an out of position Hejduk who no longer has the speed to recover, and likely never did have the speed to compete with a player like Zakuani.
When Steve gets down that line he has to keep his head up and think about the pass as Brunner, Iro and Carroll will all be forced to close and cut off Zakuani's diagonal cut towards goal. When that happens someone else in the line of three, or the forward will be available. If Zakuani finishes this match with even a single point I will be confident that Seattle has won.
Arlo White has the call on KONG6/16 and KIRO 97.3FM
BayAreaRefugee will be hosting the gamethread, buy him a beer when you see him at the George & Dragon today.
SoDo will be hopping today with a Mariners game (follow Felix Day at LookoutLanding). Expect parking issues, traffic issues and slightly longer waits at your normal watering holes.
Ljungberg has promised that the team is prepared and will be mistake free
"We can build a lot, I think. If you look at our game[in Toronto] we had three chances one-on-one against the goalkeeper and that should be more than enough to win a game and then we make two big mistakes and they scored on them. We played in between really good. If we don’t make mistakes, which I don’t think we will this weekend, if we play the same way we will win the game. I think that is the mindset the players have. Before, maybe we were a bit worried about if we were passing the ball well, we missed a lot, positioning play and stuff. That all worked in Toronto so I think we are on the right track."
(On getting points at home . . .) "I think we have got a good road team and the way we played in Toronto, things are going to open up for us when we play away from home. It’s quite nice as well when we play away from home. I think we should have got more points from this road trip and I think we will get a lot of points in the future on road trips. Of course, it is nice for the fans for us to take points at home and to win. We want it to be difficult to come here and people should be scared to come into Seattle and play."
Shirts on and Scarves Up - Its game day.
Dick Fain of KJR-AM is likely to have me on to talk Sounders some time in the last half hour of his show.
Cloudy, chace of showers, upper 40s to lower 50s - dress appropiately