COLUMBUS, Ohio – The Columbus Crew have never won a road match against the Seattle Sounders. But apparently they’re not losing any sleep over it heading into Wednesday’s contest at CenturyLink Field (10 pm ET, watch LIVE online).
While Columbus managed a draw in their first two trips to Qwest Field (plus a loss in the 2010 US Open Cup final), their most recent trip to the Emerald City ended in an embarrassing 6-2 defeat last August 27.
They entered that match first in the Eastern Conference, but the defeat marked the start of a 2-6-1 slide to end the 2011 season.
“That’s so far in the past,” goalkeeper Andy Gruenebaum said. “It’s a whole different team this year. … Last year was last year. There’s been a lot of changes. It’s a fresh season.”
He has a point. Eight of the 11 starters and 10 of the 14 who played in that match are either no longer with the team or injured and unavailable.
The new-look Crew (3-4-3) struggled out of the gate this season but have just one loss in their last five matches and are 1-0-2 in their last three, including a 1-1 tie against the San Jose Earthquakes this past Saturday.
Even though San Jose snatched an equalizer in the 90th minute, midfielder Cole Grossman said Columbus will have no trouble bouncing back.
“Even when we weren’t getting results in that stretch there, the way the locker room is, it’s tough to break us down emotionally and break the solidarity within the group,” he said. “It’s a group that’s always going to work really hard and believe in each other regardless of the way things are going.”
Of course, it wouldn’t have been a Crew game without another injury, midfielder Milovan Mirosevic becoming the latest casualty when he strained his groin. He’s listed as doubtful for Wednesday.
Coach Robert Warzycha might turn to Grossman, who replaced Mirosevic for the final 45 minutes Saturday, or Dilly Duka, who's just coming off an injury of his own.
But whoever Warzycha chooses had better be ready to hold onto the ball. The coach saw a victory against San Jose slip away because his side couldn’t maintain possession the last 15 minutes.
“We have to have our best game,” Warzycha said. “That’s a good team we’re playing. They’re pretty solid in front and they’re strong in the back obviously.”
Seattle (7-2-2) have surrendered only six goals this season. Columbus, meanwhile, have scored nine in their first 12 games, but just two in five away games. And they're 0-3-3 against the Sounders all-time in league play.
It appears to be a daunting task for the Crew, particularly in front of more than 38,000 rabid home fans.
“We definitely have confidence going into the game,” Gruenebaum said. “It is a tough place to play, one of the toughest in the league. It’s a fun environment, too. The guys will be up for it. We’ll be ready to go.”