Columbus Crew (13-6-5, 44 points, first in the Eastern Conference) vs. Seattle Sounders FC (9-9-6, 33 points, fifth in the Western Conference), at Crew Stadium in Columbus, Ohio.
All-time record: Seattle lead the series 1-0-2.
7:30 p.m. ET; ONN (Ohio), THIS TV, KONG 6/16 (Seattle); MLS Direct Kick, MatchDay Live
Both teams will be taxed by playing CONCACAF Champions League matches on Tuesday, but their experiences were very different. Columbus had the easier time with a 3-0 home victory over Trinidad’s Joe Public; Seattle traveled to Costa Rica and lost 2-0 to Saprissa.
In their last MLS match, Seattle drew 0-0 at home with Real Salt Lake on Sept. 9. Kasey Keller helped the cause with a penalty save on Robbie Findley in the 30th minute.
Columbus, on the other hand, suffered a 3-1 defeat at Los Angeles on Sept. 11 and fell out of first-place tie with the Galaxy for the overall points lead.
Nothing like a win over an inferior opponent such as Joe Public to help ease the sting of the defeat at Los Angeles. Better still, coach Robert Warzycha was able to rest more than half his starters.
Peruvian forward Andrés Mendoza scored against the Galaxy in his second brief appearance and made his first start against Joe Public, going 65 minutes before leaving with leg cramps.
“He had 30 minutes in LA,” Warzycha said. “We decided before the game we were going to push him as much as possible [Tuesday].
“I liked what I saw,” he added. “He’s a dangerous player. He’s a smart player. He keeps the ball. Twice he was close to scoring a goal. It will come.”
Another option at forward is Emilio Renteria. He missed games Sept. 1 and 4 because of Venezuelan National Team duties and played only the final 27 minutes vs. LA.
Seattle Sounders FC
Coach Sigi Schmid also sat several regulars at Saprissa in anticipation of Saturday’s match.
The Sounders flew to Columbus on Wednesday to settle into an area very familiar to several on the team, of course.
Schmid coached the Crew to their first MLS Cup in 2008 before leaving for Seattle and Ezra Hendrickson (now a Sounders assistant), Brad Evans and Pat Noonan played for the champions. Evans (right patellar tendon) and Noonan (adductor strain) will not play.
Also, Seattle's technical director Chris Henderson played 29 games for the Crew in 2005 (most for then-interim coach Warzycha) before Schmid traded him to New York in January 2006.
The familiarity may have helped the expansion Sounders on Oct. 3, 2009, when, on their first visit to Crew Stadium, they pulled off a 1-0 win to end the Crew’s MLS-record 22-game regular-season home unbeaten streak (24 overall).
Heroes & Villains
Fredy Montero vs. Shaun Francis: Seattle’s crafty and quick forward will be a handful for Columbus' speedy rookie left back, who has been getting quite an education filling in for injured veteran Gino Padula.
Montero did a professional job of drawing a penalty against Saprissa, so Francis must stay in front of him or foul outside of dangerous areas.
Stats that makes you go “Hmm...”
Seattle lead the league with 145 corner kicks while the Crew are seventh with 106. The Crew’s 88 offside calls are tops; Seattle are fifth at 74.