Ahead of the Sounders FC's second road match in as many weeks, broadcaster Ross Fletcher chimes in on what the Rave Green needs to do to contain a very talented and attack-minded Columbus Crew SC in the latest Off Camera Observations.
On coming off last week's win in New York City:
I think you always remember the good things you did in a victory, and in particular for the Sounders, how they learned to adapt to the conditions in New York. With the small field, it took a lot of time to adjust. I think New York City FC had a good opening for about 20 or 30 minutes but after that, Seattle really got into its flow and started to adjust to the conditions.
It will be different against Columbus because you’ve got a bit more room to play. It’s more of a typical match, so to speak, because of the dimensions at MAPFRE Stadium. So again, you look to your big guns.
Week in and week out – as long as they’re playing – Clint Dempsey and Obafemi Martins will be the go-to guys. In any sport, you always go to your hot hands. Dempsey and Martins are the two leading goal-scorers in MLS this year. Elsewhere, I think you maybe see a couple of changes with it being a punishing three-game road swing. Sigi Schmid will be aware that he wants to keep the team fresh, particularly going into a Cascadia Cup match with Vancouver. You will maybe see one or two changes in the side.
Apart from that, there’s no need to do anything particularly different because this team is on a bit of a roll right now.
On the type of team Columbus is:
I think it’s going to be fascinating to watch Crew SC in action because their coach, Gregg Berhalter, has such a distinctive style of play. Definitely look out for their fullbacks to charge forward. Hernan Grana, the right back, has put in more crosses than any other player in MLS this season, including midfielders and forwards. So that says everything about how Berhalter wants his fullbacks to get forward. Waylon Francis, at left back, also goes forward.
Although they lost to D.C. last week, they put in an incredible 40 crosses. They just love to get the ball wide. Seattle has to be defensively disciplined when not in possession. I think a lot of that will fall on the wide midfielders: [Marco] Pappa, [Lamar] Neagle, [Andy] Rose…whoever plays out there. They should be able to track back and stop Francis and Grana from putting in the kind of services that they have all season.
Their other dangermen are pretty obvious. Kei Kamara up front – You can’t allow him time and space, particularly in the air in the box, because he’s so powerful and stalky. He’s got five goals already this season and is in very good form. And then they’ve got the craft to go with the bulk of Kamara in Federico Higuain, who’s small, compact and very, very creative. He buzzes around like a little fly and can make things happen from 40 yards out in the blink of an eye. So they’ve got the craft and they’ve got the wide guys who love to fly down the flanks.
On the Sounders three-match road trip:
I don’t think the players themselves ever really look too far ahead. I think they will know that the task at hand right now is to get over a punishing, two-game East Coast road swing. I think the last thing they’re thinking about right now is Vancouver. If it was the Portland Timbers, then maybe there’d be a flicker of recognition. I’m sure they will have the task at hand taken care of.
They haven’t done any preparation for Vancouver Whitecaps yet, so that will naturally keep them focused on what happens this weekend. It’s about absorbing some early pressure from Columbus, as they come out of the gate pretty quick. From there, it's about being confident in possession, getting Clint Dempsey and Obafemi Martins the ball, and putting in another 90-minute shift. I think pound-for-pound, player-for-player, Seattle is the better team.
Despite the travel and weariness, I don’t see any reason why they can’t go to MAPFRE Stadium and get a result.