After needing to wait until May 4th (seven games in to the season) to get to six points in 2013, this year’s Seattle Sounders have made the mark in half the time. With a 2-1-0 record to kickoff 2014, the Sounders are now sitting in second place in the West. Not a bad start at all.
The “New Look” Sounders are hoping to erase the memories of last year
They’ll be looking to extend that streak on Saturday when the Columbus Crew come to town. With the matchup being named the “MLS Stream Of The Week” it will afford Crew fans an opportunity to actually watch their team play, a luxury they will not be enjoying much of this season, due to their television deal. It was this deal that became the catalyst for the Crew and former President Mark McCullers to “mutually agree” to part ways. For a club which has come out as being committed to making the changes needed to become a premiere club in MLS, the TV deal was a monumental step back. However, their play on the field seems to be more streamlined. Sitting (tied for) second in the East (with Toronto FC) at 6 points and a +4 goal differential, this is a team which is searching for the glories of yesteryear & a return to “Must See” soccer.
The “New Look” Sounders are hoping to erase the memories of last year’s roller coaster campaign and have looked to become the US Open Cup Champion side of old. Coming off of a stellar offensive showing against L’Impact de Montréal in Week 3, the Maple Leaf Monkey is finally off of Seattle’s back having beaten Les Bleus Et Noir for the first time in the MLS era of the Clubs. Switching to a more attack minded 4-3-3 formation, the Sounders were able to exploit Montréal’s continued defensive woes and net two. It took 4666 KM (that’s 2919 miles) and an extra day of waiting but with the win they now sit in sole possession of second place in the West with 6 points.
So, where does this leave us for Saturday? Can we expect a 6-2 smackdown a la 2011 when a young Lamar Neagle netted a hat trick? Well… Unlikely.
The most intriguing story line will be between up & coming star Dylan Remick and savvy vet Leo Gonzalez
Donning the hard hat for Columbus is Frederico Higuaín, who is still a considerably dangerous striker. He wants the ball so he will drop deep to get it or move out wide to make a play from distance. It’s this forward thinking that has already lead to 2 of the Club’s 5 goals on the year and he doesn’t appear to be slowing down anytime soon. Frederico isn’t the only set of boots the Seattle back four will need to keep an eye on as Bernardo Anor is coming off of a 2-goal showing in Week 3’s win over Philadelphia. The Crew also added US national Michael Parkhurst to solidify their formally questionable back line. This has paid off thus far as they’ve only given up a single goal in 3 matches. That’s about as stringy as one team can get.
The Sounders, on the other hand, have a brand new bag of tricks for 2014. Although the Rave Green will be another match without Clint Dempsey as he finishes off his 2 match ban for a “Hand Ball” incident *Wink Wink, Nudge Nudge* against Toronto FC in Week 2, it won’t slow them down any. The big question will be the health of Brad Evans and whether he will sit out a second match with a calf injury. Should Coach Sigi Schmid sit him, Gonzalo Pineda is more than up for the task to fill the void, as he proved in Montréal.
Depth is always a desire with any Club and the Sounders certainly have that this year
The most intriguing story line will be between up & coming star Dylan Remick and savvy vet Leo Gonzalez. As it has been widely understood, the young Remick is merely keeping Leo’s spot warm while he recovered from off season surgery. That’s all fine & dandy, however Remick has performed far above where pundits thought he would. His continued aerial dominance has won many a lost ball, as well as his speed up the wing is rivaled only by opposing defender DeAndre Yedlin.
That being said, Leo is Leo. His veteran presence, ability to read the field, and defensive prowess are some of the best in the league on his best day. With the imposing French Phenom of Djimi Traore & new-comer Chad Marshall rounding out the back line, it makes for a perplexing storyline. Coach Schmid has indicted both Remick & Gonzalez will be featured in Saturday’s match, so we will have to see how this unfolds moving forward. To be fair, it’s not a bad issue to have. Depth is always a desire with any Club and the Sounders certainly have that this year.
The Seattle Sounders all-time record against the Columbus Crew (including the US Open Cup) is 5-1-3, favourable odds to say the least. The stellar midfield play of Osvaldo Alonso, Lamar Neagle and (potentially) Pineda will prove the difference maker in this one as Seattle is able to stymie the Columbus Crew attack, forcing untimely turnovers, and allowing Obafemi Martins & Neagle to bang home their second respective goals of the season in a 2-0 Sounders win.