Costigan DALvSEA Preview Cover Arreaga

When Columbus Crew beat the Seattle Sounders to lift MLS Cup last December, the consensus among experts seemed to be that the Crew were ready to embark on a period of dominance and the Rave Green’s successful cycle was coming to an end. Fast forward eight months and it is Seattle riding high in the western conference and Columbus who have really struggled to build on their impressive MLS Cup win. 

Scouting the Opposition

The Crew are in a rough patch, and their defeat to the New York Red Bulls was their fifth consecutive loss in MLS play. This is the worst run for a defending champion since LA Galaxy lost seven in a row in 2006. 

The main issues for the Crew have been at the attacking end of the field. Caleb Porter may well point to the absence of Gyasi Zardes due to Gold Cup duty as a main reason for his team’s attacking woes, but he only needs to look at Saturday’s opponents to see how a team can adjust with the absence of a key attacking figure. Columbus have gone consecutive matches without scoring for the fourth time this season. When you consider that only occurred once last campaign, you can see where the issues are.

The Crew rank 26th in MLS for Expected Goals showing the issue is they simply are not generating enough goalscoring opportunities from the run of play. Their big chance conversion rate is 9th in MLS which suggests if they do start to create more chances the goals should start to flow, although that will be much more difficult to do so without Zardes who will now miss some key games through injury.

Seattle Soaring

The Sounders are coming off an impressive road win at Dallas in midweek that highlighted the strength in depth the club have built this season, and the faith Brian Schmetzer has in his young players to step in and play at a high level. AB Cissoko, Josh Atencio and Danny Leyva all started in the victory at Toyota Stadium, and all impressed as the Sounders ended a run of 10 matches without a win in Dallas.

Seattle’s defensive shape against Dallas was excellent and limited the hosts;’ attacking opportunities but it took an inspired double substitution bringing on Raúl Ruidíaz and Nicolás Lodeiro to seal the win. Lodeiro’s absence may not have stopped Brian Schmetzer’s side reaching the summit of the Western Conference, but his return has undoubtedly lifted the energy of play in the attacking third of the pitch.

The return of Lodeiro should see Cristian Roldan drop a little deeper to play alongside João Paulo, giving the Sounders one of the best midfield groups in MLS. The form of Fredy Montero has been excellent too and his ability to share the goalscoring burden with Raul Ruidiaz makes Seattle a formidable attacking unit.

The Rave Green attack gets all the headlines, but Seattle possesses the best defensive record in MLS. Yeimar, Xavier Arreaga and Shane O'Neill have excelled in a back three and Cissoko has now shown he is a more than capable understudy. Add to that the news that Nouhou is nearing a comeback and you could argue the Sounders will become even more difficult to play against.

What to Watch for:

Ruidíaz has now set a personal best for goals in MLS with 14 goals. He is just 3 behind the Sounders regular season record of 17 set by Obafemi Martins in 2014.

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