Columbus eager to finally snap pesky Seattle hex

OBETZ, Ohio — It’s already been a year of change for the Columbus Crew, and they’ve got the chance again this weekend to break down another nagging barrier.

The Crew — who already this season have snapped road hexes in Houston and at Real Salt Lake — are winless in two league tries as well as last year’s US Open Cup final in Seattle, and they’re back for another shot against the Sounders on Saturday (4 pm ET, watch LIVE online).

“We’ve had some good showings there, just unlucky with some goals,” defender Chad Marshall said. “Hopefully this is a time we can go there and play the best we can and come out with three points."

“Obviously they’re having a great season,” he added. “They’re good at home and their fans are incredible. It’s a tough atmosphere.”

But it’s the kind of challenge the Crew (11-7-7) need if they are to stay atop the Eastern Conference down the stretch.

“We don’t want easy games right now,” midfielder Danny O’Rourke said. “We’ve put ourselves in a position where we have a good chance to make the playoffs and make a push. The more games we get in a playoff-like atmosphere against a good team like Seattle, I think that will be a good test for us.”

There’s another hex here, too. The Crew still haven’t beaten Sigi Schmid, the coach who led them to the 2008 MLS Cup, since he took over the expansion Sounders the following season. His 3-0-3 mark (including the Open Cup) against his former club includes a 1-1 tie in Crew Stadium on May 7.

O’Rourke, however, said the matchup has long since moved past the storyline of Schmid vs. his ex-players and his successor, Robert Warzycha.

“You can count on one hand the number of players who played for Sigi,” he said. “It’s Robert’s team now. Sigi’s in Seattle. We don’t even think anything of that.”

Warzycha said there is a simple formula if the Crew are to be successful.

“The games that we won, whether it’s Houston or Salt Lake, we worked hard and we were very organized as a team,” he said.

The Crew have scored just eight goals in 12 games away from home this season, and have been shut out six times.

“It’s not that we aren’t getting the chances,” Warzycha said. “If we put a few away we’d probably score first and put some pressure on the team playing at home.”

The Crew will be without midfielder Eddie Gaven (leg contusion) for a third straight game, midfielder Robbie Rogers is questionable with a gimpy left ankle and defender Julius James will serve a caution-points suspension. Rookies Rich Balchan or Eric Gehrig are candidates to start at center back.