Sounders return to Ohio where they have close connections

Sigi Schmid's last head coaching job before the Sounders was with his current club's opponent on Saturday.

Sounders FC @ Columbus Crew
August 31, 2013, 4:30 pm PT; Crew Stadium
TV/Radio: KONG 6/16; KIRO Radio 97.3 FM; KOMO2 (Spanish) and La Gran D 99.3 FM (Spanish)

Each time Sounders FC heads to Crew Stadium, there is a feeling of nostalgia to the trip.

Seattle is 2-0-1 in Columbus in three prior visits, including a victory in 2009 to end the Crew’s then-MLS record 22-match home unbeaten streak. Head Coach Sigi Schmid, Assistant Coach Ezra Hendrickson and midfielder Brad Evans won an MLS Cup with the Crew in 2008 and DeAndre Yedlin, Steve Zakuani and Blair Gavin all honed their craft at the University of Akron before starting their pro careers. The return to Ohio offers them a chance to look back fondly on their time there.

“I always have a good feeling there,” said Schmid, who spent three years at the helm of the Crew. “I think the fans reception before the game has always been very good and very positive. Obviously when the game starts, I know they are behind the Crew and they are against us, but before the game they are very good about.”

Schmid started his tenure in Columbus in 2006, taking over a team that finished last in the East in 2005 and elevating them to a double, winning the MLS Cup and Supporters’ Shield in 2008. He then moved to Seattle to coach Sounders FC, taking with him Hendrickson as an assistant coach after he announced his retirement following the MLS Cup final.

Evans played a key role in that title run as well, starting 18 matches for the Crew while scoring five goals in the regular season and adding another in the playoffs. But after two seasons, he was selected by Sounders FC in the 2008 MLS Expansion Draft and has grown into a leadership role in Seattle, where he has 16 goals in 106 appearances over five seasons and has worked his way into playing time with the U.S. National Team.

For Evans, the divide between Seattle and his first professional home is growing greater with time, as fewer and fewer connections remain with the Crew. Now in his fifth season with Sounders FC, he is at home in Seattle.

“I wouldn’t want to be anywhere else. I was more than happy to come here and I haven’t wanted to leave and I don’t think I’m going anywhere,” he said. “From that standpoint, it’s good to reflect back and see where I’ve come.”

Yedlin played two seasons at Akron before signing as Sounders FC’s first Homegrown Player and has exceled at the MLS level, earning the nod as the only rookie in the MLS All-Star Game. While with the Zips, he earned First Team All-Conference honors both seasons and helped them to a 33-5-7 record in his two seasons.

He will see many former teammates at the match, including Columbus rookies Wil Trapp and Chad Barson.

“It’ll be interesting,” Yedlin said. “There should be a lot of Akron people down for the game, so it should be fun to see them.”

All the pleasantries aside, Sounders FC has an important task at hand. As it nears the postseason, each match is vital to contention and the only match of the year against the Crew is no different.

“It’s an important game, but we try to approach every game with the same attitude and the same idea of trying to win the game,” Schmid said.

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