OBETZ, Ohio – The Columbus Crew have yet to lose a match under new head coach and sporting director Gregg Berhalter. But after wins against 2013's worst team D.C. United and the still-gelling Philadelphia Union, the Crew travel to Seattle Saturday to take on the seasoned Sounders in what will certainly be their toughest test to date (10 pm ET, FREE Stream of the Week).
“It's a good team,” Berhalter told reporters before the 2-0-0 Crew departed for Seattle on Thursday. “We looked at some games so far in this tenure as measuring stick games, and this is one of them. We thought Kansas City in the Disney Classic was one of them, and so is this. [Sporting KC and Seattle are] two perennial favorites to win the MLS Cup, and we'll see where we're at after that game.”
Defender and club captain Michael Parkhurst said the that while wins over D.C. and Philadelphia came with their own challenges, the combination of Seattle's quality, their turf field and a raucous crowd will be a much stiffer challenge.
“It will be a big test for us,” he said. “We know that at times we're going to have to weather a storm like we did against Philly ... and that's where we'll find out if we can hang in there and pull out of it and play our way out of it, and we think we can.”
Working in the Crew's favor is the fact that star attacking midfielder Clint Dempsey will not be available for Seattle while he serves the second match of a two-game suspension. Parkhurst said that the Sounders missing Dempsey is a welcome advantage for the traveling Crew.
“No doubt, our life is a little easier with him not on the field,” he said. “And we want to go in there and get a win, so of course that makes it a little easier for us, and we’ll take that. It's unfortunate that he's not playing in the game because he's obviously one of the best players in the league and everyone loves to watch him play.”
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“We all love to compete against each other,” he said. “Clint's a fighter when he's out there, he's totally different than when he's off the field. You like to go up against a guy like that. He's going to challenge you the whole game, and those battles are fun.
“But I'm sure we'll come across each other again, if not later in the season or the playoffs, then with training for the national team.”
The match also marks the first time that former Crew talisman Chad Marshall will face his old team. And while there aren't many players remaining from the Marshall era on the Columbus roster, Berhalter still thinks it will be a unique dynamic, and one that can benefit his team.
“We focused on [Marshall's] ability first; how he's good in set pieces defensively and offensively,” Berhalter said. “Guys are familiar with him. They know him, they know what kinds of runs he likes to make, but he's still a handful on those things. I think it will be interesting for him, playing against his old team. But I think it's exciting for both sides.”