Preview: Sounders look to tighten grip on Crew rivalry

The Columbus Crew will be looking to do something they’ve never done when they play host to Seattle Sounders FC on Saturday at Crew Stadium. Riding a six-match undefeated streak after last weekend 2-1 win against Vancouver, the
Crew have never defeated Seattle at home, losing both previous meetings in Ohio. Sounders FC started their two-game Eastern swing on Wednesday with a 2-1 loss at D.C. United.

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REFEREE: Mark Kadlecik. SAR (bench): Steven Taylor; JAR (opposite): James Conlee; 4th: Mark Geiger MLS Career: 2 games; FC/gm: 20.0; Y/gm: 3.0; R: 1; pens: 0

INJURY REPORT: COLUMBUS CREW – OUT: MF Danny O'Rourke (L knee Surgery); DF Josh Williams (R hip labral tear); QUESTIONABLE: FW Tom Heinemann (R pes anserine bursitis); DF Shaun Francis (L hamstring strain) …
SEATTLE SOUNDERS FC – OUT: FW O’Brian White (L leg surgery); MF Steve Zakuani (R leg fracture); PROBABLE: FW Pat Noonan (R quad strain)

INTERNATIONAL ABSENCES: none
SUSPENDED: none
WARNINGS:
SUSPENDED AFTER TWO YELLOW CARDS: CLB: Kevin Burns; Julius James … SEA: Leo Gonzalez

HEAD-TO-HEAD
ALL-TIME (4 meetings): Sounders FC 2 wins, 7 goals … Crew 0 wins, 2 goals … Ties 2
AT COLUMBUS (2 meetings): Sounders FC 2 wins, 5 goals … Crew 0 wins, 0 goals … Ties 0
RETURN MATCH: 8/27: Seattle Sounders FC vs. Columbus Crew, 1 p.m. PT
LAST YEAR (MLS):
5/1: SEA 1, CLB 1 (Zakuani 4 – Lenhart 45)
9/18: CLB 0, SEA 4 (Nkufo 4, 39, 75; Sturgis 42)

  • Sounders FC are unbeaten in five all-time meetings with the Crew – four in league play, as well as a victory in the U.S. Open Cup Final last year.
  • Sounders FC have won both previous encounters at Crew Stadium – the Crew have yet to score a goal against Seattle on their home ground, while conceding five.
  • Coaches record: Sigi Schmid v CLB: P16 W7 L3 D6 … Robert Warzycha vs. SEA: P4 W0 L2 D2

COLUMBUS CREW
The Columbus Crew made it six matches without loss, holding on for a 2-1 win against Vancouver Whitecaps FC on Saturday evening at Crew Stadium. The Crew have 12 points from 7 games on the season, starting the week in a tie for
third place in the Eastern Conference.

LAST MATCH

  • The Crew broke through just after the second-half restart. Emilio Renteria pounced on a loose ball, and after he was tripped up in the box by Whitecaps FC goalkeeper Jay Nolly, he converted his own penalty.
  • Just nine minutes later, Rentería made it 2-0 when Rusmir took a pass from Dilly Duka, spun and found Rentería in stride in the box. The Venezuelan international got inside of his defender to finish with a first-time left-footed shot.
  • Vancouver reduced the deficit in the 69th minute when Omar Salgado scored his first professional goal, heading home a cross from the left by Terry Dunfield.
  • Crew head coach Robert Warzycha made two changes to the team that coming back for a 1-1 draw with Toronto FC at BMO Field. Josh Gardner came in for Rich Balchan at fullback, and Dejan Rusmir started in place of Emmanuel Ekpo.
  • COLUMBUS CREW (4-2-3-1): William Hesmer - Sebastian Miranda, Chad Marshall, Julius James, Josh Gardner - Dilly Duka (Leandre Griffit 88), Dejan Rusmir - Eddie Gaven, Kevin Burns (Emmanuel Ekpo 67), Robbie Rogers - Emilio Renteria (Jeff Cunningham 78).

TEAM NEWS

  • The Crew allowed their first goal in 339 minutes of play at Crew Stadium this season, but still held on for the 2-1 win against Vancouver.
  • "I didn't like the way the end of the second half went," center back Chad Marshall said. "We need to do better at killing off games. We should have been knocking the ball around and making them run. We gave the ball away cheaply."
  • The Crew have still not lost since the 3-1 First Kick defeat by D.C. United. "I think we're starting to hit our stride," Eddie Gaven said to the Columbus Dispatch. "I don't think we've played our best soccer yet, but you can see some signs there. At times we were very, very good."
  • Emilio Renteria has scored all three of his goals this season in the last two games, including netting the Crew’s third penalty kick (in seven total goals) this season. "This is the first time I've scored with the left foot," Renteria said.
  • With returnee Shaun Francis out with a hamstring injury, rookie Rich Balchan had held the starting job at left back from the start of the season. But with Balchan sidelined with an illness for the Vancouver match, Josh Gardner moved into the left back slot and made a goal-line clearance to preserve the Crew lead.
  • “It’s great to have both guys as assets,” goalkeeper William Hesmer said. “And we’ve got [Francis], too. Left back for a lot of teams is a huge trouble spot. It looks like we’ve got an embarrassment of riches there now.”
  • Gardner is nominally a midfielder, who has been playing the lower divisions in the last few years after making his last MLS appearance for the LA Galaxy in 2006.
  • “He’s got more experience than Rich, obviously,” Hesmer said. “Rich is more raw. Josh is good with his feet. He’s serving a good ball, he can pass well. He doesn’t have the recovery that Rich does to cover up for other mistakes. He doesn’t have Rich’s speed, but Rich is one of the fastest guys I’ve seen.”
  • In the midfield, Dejan Rusmir returned to the team in place of Emmanuel Ekpo while second-year player Dilly Duka held down a starting spot for a second consecutive week.
  • “We’re playing different than the Crew usually plays,” Duka said. “We’re playing with five midfielders, so we’re definitely enjoying the ball more. It’s been coming. We’ve been training good all week and it showed. [Last] Thursday in an intra-squad game, we were clicking there and it rubbed off [on Saturday]."

SEATTLE SOUNDERS FC

  • Seattle Sounders FC had their unbeaten streak come to an end to start a two-game Eastern road swing, falling 2-1 to D.C. United on Wednesday evening at RFK Stadium. Sounders FC have 12 points from 9 games on the season, sitting in a tie for third place in the Western Conference.

LAST MATCH

  • United struck first in the 31st minute. Andy Najar’s through ball found Davies in space down the right flank.
  • After shrugging off the challenge of Jhon Kennedy Hurtado, Davies squared a perfect ball for Josh Wolff, who slammed a shot first-time past Kasey Keller.
  • The same offensive trio teamed to double D.C.’s lead in the 52nd minute. Najar once again created space on the ball, and slotted in Wolff on the right wing. Wolff this time played provider, sending in an inch-perfect cross for Davies to tap home for his league-leading sixth goal of the season.
  • Sounders FC pulled a goal back when Fredy Montero won a penalty, and Brad Evans converted from the spot, but Seattle could not maintain their perfect record at RFK Stadium.
  • Sounders FC head coach Sigi Schmid made no changes to the team that defeated Toronto FC 3-0 at Qwest Field.
  • SEATTLE SOUNDERS FC (4-1-3-2): Kasey Keller – James Riley (Mauro Rosales 59), Patrick Ianni, Jhon Kennedy Hurtado, Tyson Wahl – Osvaldo Alonso – Brad Evans, Erik Friberg, Alvaro Fernandez (Leo Gonzalez 76) – Fredy Montero, Nate Jaqua (Roger Levesque 64).

TEAM NEWS

  • Sounders FC hadn’t lost since dropping 1-0 decisions to both New York and LA to open the season.
  • “I think we started out a little bit too flat, and we knew (D.C. United) was a team with their back against the wall,” Seattle midfielder Brad Evans said. “For us, we didn’t play as well as we did last week, especially as far as moving the ball and keeping the ball in possession in our attacking half of the field. We still created a number of chances, and it was just a matter of putting them away.”
  • The goal scored by United midway through the first half was the first allowed by Sounders FC in 268 minutes.
  • Sounders FC had come away with victories on each of their first three visits to RFK Stadium. They now head to Columbus were they are also perfect, with two wins in two trips to face the Crew.
  • "It's tough to go into a place and win four games in a row, that's for sure," Evans said. "To have a record like that of three victories is good, but for us we take away a few things we need to work on in this game and move forward."
  • Over the final 20 minutes, after Sounders FC had pulled to within one, Mauro Rosales suffered a hamstring injury. But as Sigi Schmid had used all three available substitutes, Rosales had to carry on – though he couldn’t run.
  • "In the second half we got back into the game, and I really thought we'd get the equalizer, but Mauro Rosales pulls his hamstring in the last 12 minutes — he's just standing on the field, he can't move anymore," Schmid said.
  • Brad Evans has scored the last three goals for Sounders FC, since moving to a wide midfield spot, the last two coming from the penalty spot.
  • “We were able to get some pressure in the box, but it wasn’t cohesive enough and sometimes I think we ran too much. Brad Evans always gives you a good effort and Erik Friberg gives you a big effort, but sometimes I think they ran too much ahead of the play instead of coming in behind the play,” Kasey Keller said. “So as a result of that, we had too many guys close together and when the ball popped free it seemed like every second ball fell to [D.C.] because we were on top of each other.”