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Sounders at Columbus Crew SC: Three Questions

Andrew Weber-USA TODAY Sports

The best Saturday of the year features three pro soccer games for fans of Seattle teams. The highlight is when Seattle Sounders FC head to the capitol of Ohio to again beat Columbus Crew SC. Q13 Fox has the 4:30 PM match between pre-season Conference favorites.

Patrick M from Massive Report answers Three Questions about Crew SC.

SaH: Is #HateWeek actually a thing? Like a large segment of Crew fans still hate the Sounders over 08-10?

MR: I would say it is a certain portion of Black and Gold fans who happen to be rather vocal on social media.

From what I understand from talking to these fans, it's less about on the field and more about in the stands. I think it's best to let them speak for themselves:

"There's a large group of supporters who dislike the attitude affected by Seattle supporter leadership. The perception [right or wrong] is that MLS 3.0 clubs have had everything handed to them as opposed to original or early MLS supporters groups who actually crafted the momentum that markets such as Seattle have latched on to."

"There is a segment of Sounder fans who have let the praise of the team's supporters go to their head, and that may rub a lot of passionate Crew SC fans the wrong way. Also, in Columbus, we hate capos"

"It's more about the trouble between #TIFOSWEAT and AO Seattle from a few years ago"

"They can average 40,000 fans, but still play on a turf field."

#hateweek. I don't think Seattle gets it. We don't hate their team or their coach, we hate there arrogant, egocentric fans.

— Mathew Broz (@CrewV_Man) May 7, 2015

I think the majority of Crew SC fans would tell you they don't view the Sounders as a rival and are happy to see guys like Sigi Schmid, Brad Evans, and Chad Marshall having success.

SaH: How do Crew SC (did I get the branding right?) use their possession? The numbers make it look like a defensive tactic.

MR: Good job on the name, most people still get that wrong.

The Black and Gold's possession does help defensively in that the opposition can't score when you have the ball, but it's geared towards an offensive philosophy.

Head coach Gregg Berhalter's style of play looks to get numbers forward. The outside backs are key in providing the width in the attacking half of the field, which is where Columbus looks to possess. Players such as Federico Higuain, Kei Kamara, Ethan Finlay, and Justin Meram are all very attack-minded players who play a big part in the possession game. Tony Tchani isn't hugely offensive, but he does make key passes to keep things going and has a goal on the year.

Columbus is tied for third in the league in goals scored and second in goals against in MLS thus far, so the possession game is working on both sides of the ball.

SaH: Higuain is the worst performer of the front four. How is Columbus going to fix that?

MR: Statistically, that may be the case, but he remains a key part of the Crew SC offense. Higuain has always roamed the field, looking to get on the ball in the best possible positions, but this year the space he vacates is being filled by other players. Kamara, Finlay, and Meram can all rotate around the offensive front and create for each other, meaning it isn't all on Higuain's shoulders this year.

Because of this, Higuain is able to get the ball deeper and bring the attack forward. He continues to dazzle on the field and create for those around him. If he starts scoring and assisting and a regular clip, this offense could reach heights I'm not sure anyone dreamed of when Berhalter took over.

In terms of fixing it, I don't think anything needs to be fixed. There are more attacking options this year than he's had on any team since coming to Columbus. Naturally this means his numbers may decline, but the idea is it will be for the good of the team.

Significant Absences: It appears the only player that will miss out on this game is Wil Trapp, who's missed the last few games with concussion symptoms. Waylon Francis was substituted at halftime of last week's game and was dealing with an ankle issue a couple of weeks before that, but he is supposed to be healthy.

Projected lineup:
Steve Clark
Hernan Grana-Michael Parkhurst-Emanuel Pogatetz-Waylon Francis
Ethan Finlay-Tony Tchani-Mohammed Saeid-Justin Meram
Federico Higuain
Kei Kamara

* * *

MR: Eleven goals and six assists between Clint Dempsey and Obafemi Martins in what is likely the best attack in the league. Aside from pure talent, what makes these two so good together and for the Sounders' system?

SaH: They've got a vibe that is impossible to replicate. They see things that we can't see. A little turn of a head, a back heel flick and a sprint through the defense and one is on goal while the other is charging in just in case there's a rebound. The two can be spinning like tops about 24 yards out, surrounded by the opposition. Standing just ten yards from each other mobbed, and yet after a few touches one bursts free. It keeps happening. Marco Pappa and Lamar Neagle sometimes enter their sphere, but Clint and Oba are something that this league rarely sees.

Each are among the top 10 players in the league. Their drift compatibility puts them both at the top of the MVP lists this year and last. If that silly World Cup hadn't gotten in the way Dempsey would have joined Keane and Martins in the 2014 debate.

Martins and Dempsey belong in a list like Payton & Kemp, Ender & Bean, Moirraine & Lan, Ken & Ryu, Han & Chewie. They equally great, equally capable of the amazing. This is not Jordan and Pippen where a great is supported by the good.

Both have extraordinary first touches where they can rein the ball if it is within a few yards of their body. Regularly they display exceptional vision. The finishing is exceptional. Each can drop back and become a playmaker. Deuce and Oba have speed and strength. When these two burst free they are taking shots from inside the area.

Other teams take more shots than the Sounders, but other teams don't take more shots by World Cup quality talent from dangerous positions.

MR: This team is obviously more than the two strikers listed above, despite them stealing much of the headlines. Who are a couple of other players Crew SC fans should be aware of heading into this match? Marco Pappa? Andy Rose?

SaH: Lamar Neagle once hattricked the Crew, so the fans are probably already aware of him. Last year he was the third option in the attack. Neagle's 2014 fell just short of a double-double with nine goals and nine assists in league play. Only seven players did the double-double (Martins and Dempsey are on that list). He's struggling a bit this year, but he remains a respectable threat.

Slippery and skillful Marco Pappa may only be the fourth best attacker for the Sounders. The Guatemalan star will finish the year with 5-8 goals and looks likely to exceed his personal assist high of just five (already at 3). He's the Sounder most likely to play magical games with Clinfemi, generally tucking underneath the two forwards leaving his flank open.

Rose does a great job with late runs and offers a strong aerial presence. Andy is likely an early sub on Saturday.

Gonzalo Pineda is the box-to-box engine for the team. He isn't flashy. Pineda can change the tempo better than any Sounder and can drop a long pass on Obafempsey's feet from 60+ yards.

MR: The Sounders are in their seventh season and have been successful, but still no MLS Cup in the trophy cabinet. How frustrated are those in Seattle with this fact and at what point might the club have to move on from Sigi Schmid?

SaH: Now, I'm a vocal minority of the majority that thinks that Sigi's been a damn fine coach. While I'd love to have an MLS Cup I look at 4 CONCACAF Champions League appearances, six trips to the MLS Cup Playoffs, four Open Cups, 1 Supporters Shield, a Cascadia Cup, the second most wins from 2009 to the present, beating a Liga MX team in Mexico, beating a Liga MX team in knockout rounds and think to myself "I want to fail like that."

I hope Sigi fails like that in 2015. The goals this year are simple - challenge for every single trophy with an emphasis on MLS Cup and another perfect CCL Group Stage. That almost certainly means an Open Cup semifinal trip or better. It probably includes a team that is competing for the Shield in the final couple weeks of the season.

If he does that then no matter the fan outcry Roth, Hanauer & Lagerwey will keep him around for another couple years.

Significant Absences: nothing

Projected Lineup: Frei; Remick, Marshall, Evans, Mears; Neagle, Pineda, Alonso, Pappa; Dempsey, Martins

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