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Key is striking early

In the seven matches this season when the Sounders score first, they have yet to lose.

Marc Burch may not be completely up to speed on the Sounders FC’s short history, but you wouldn’t know it by his words in advance of Seattle’s match on Wednesday against the Columbus Crew.

After all, he had no way of knowing that the Sounders had scored in the fourth minute three times in their six MLS matches against the Crew and were 3-0-3 against Columbus in MLS play.

“I think if we get an early goal it would really help. It lets everybody take a deep breath and just relax,” Burch said on Monday. “Once one goal goes in, they start coming. It would be nice to jump on top of a team and get an early goal.”

Indeed an early goal would help the Sounders. They had yet to lose in the seven matches that had seen the Sounders score first in 2012, so an early tally would undoubtedly give them an edge.

It has also shown to deflate the Crew, who have only managed to equalize once when the Sounders scored in the first four minutes of the match against them. This season, they are 1-4-1 when allowing the first goal. At 3-4-3 overall though, the Crew is a team that relies heavily on their work rate.

In the absence of captain Chad Marshall, who has missed the last three matches because of concussions, midfielder Eddie Gaven has assumed the leadership role. He is the personification of the work ethic that has become the hallmark in Columbus.

“Eddie’s just a very versatile player. He just goes out there and works. He’s not a very complicated individual,” said Sounders FC head coach Sigi Schmid, who coached the Crew to the 2008 MLS Cup before coming to Seattle. “He’s a lot tougher than people think … I’ve coached very few players that deal with injuries as well as he does. He’s got a good hard constitution in terms of his approach to the game.”

The 10-year MLS veteran, who is still just 25 years old, has 44 goals and 31 assists in his career, including two goals this season in a 2-2 draw with the Houston Dynamo.

“He’s always in the right spots and he’s never going to quit for 90 minutes,” Burch said. “He’s nothing flashy, he just gets it done every game.”

In addition to Gaven, Justin Meram has added some scoring pop to their lineup in recent matches, scoring two goals in the last two matches while paired with Olman Vargas up top. Midfielder Milovan Mirosevic has one goal from the midfield and has been their connector through the middle of the pitch.

That group will look to combat the history that falls to Seattle’s side.

In seven previous meetings across all competitions, Seattle is 4-0-3 and has outscored the Crew 16-6. However, none of that will count once play starts at 7 pm from CenturyLink Field.

“That’s very important before the game. Right when the referee blows his whistle, that’s completely different,” forward Fredy Montero said. “We need to be focused on what we can do to score goals and win the game. That’s all.”