COLUMBUS — The Seattle Sounders are one of only four Major League Soccer teams that are undefeated at home at the midway point of the season. Seattle has compiled a 7-0-2 record within the friendly confines of CenturyLink Field, claiming 23 of a possible 27 points, including three crucial ones last weekend against Vancouver at the death courtesy of Kelvin Leerdam’s fifth goal of the year.
Seattle has struggled on the road so far in 2019, though, amassing a 1-5-3 record heading into Saturday’s clash at Columbus Crew SC (4:30 p.m. PT; JOEtv, YouTube TV, 950 KJR AM, El Rey 1360). Despite the challenges, including missing a plethora of key players like Raúl Ruidíaz, Jordan Morris and Cristian Roldan to international duty for over a month, the Sounders remain positive that they can begin to earn results away from home.
“We need to show that we can win away especially,” said midfielder Gustav Svensson. “We need to change that around and make sure we get better playing away games.”
Columbus presents a perfect opportunity for Seattle to do just that. Crew SC enters this weekend with just one win in its last 13 matches and six losses in the last seven. Columbus has lost 12 times this season, just one better than league-worst FC Cincinnati.
Two of Columbus’ best players, midfielder Federico Higuaín and defender Milton Valenzuela, are out for the season with ACL injuries. Goalkeeper Zack Steffen, midfielder Wil Trapp and forward Gyasi Zardes are away with the United States national team for the Concacaf Gold Cup.
“It’s my old friend Caleb Porter,” said Head Coach Brian Schmetzer with a smirk, referencing the former Portland Timbers head coach and current manager of Crew SC. “It’s a revamp in the making of Columbus Crew, but it’s MLS. It’s a lot of travel for us, I know they had a midweek as well. These games are critical for a lot of different reasons. It’s critical how you approach these games: your tactics, your preparation. A lot of thought goes into these games even on the end of a long road trip.”
Saturday marks the end of seven-match stretch that had Seattle away six times. The team then returns home for a massive cross-country showdown with defending MLS Cup champion Atlanta United (TICKETS), an international friendly with Borussia Dortmund (TICKETS) and the first Cascadia clash with the Timbers (TICKETS).
Taking three points in Columbus would be a great start to what will hopefully be the Sounders’ fourth consecutive second-half surge.
“I don’t know if we’ve been not patient enough, sometimes you have to play differently away,” said Svensson. “You have to play more defense, you have to make sure you don’t get scored on. Maybe we played a little too much like at home and trying to go at it. We don’t know the answer yet, but hopefully we’ll find it [on Saturday].”