On the heels of a disappointing 2-1 loss to a struggling DC United on Wednesday the Sounders look to rebound against a Columbus Crew side that have been an early surprise. The Crew were considered by many to be in the discussion for worst team in the league coming into the year but thanks to a stout defense and a style that emphasizes possession and patience they've managed 12 points and 4th place in the Eastern Conference. They've been a far better team at home, winning three of their four and picking up 10 of their 12 points. Columbus has allowed only one goal in four games at Crew Stadium so far this year, and though they are far from prolific in terms of scoring they're averaging over a goal a game, which is enough to take points when you've allowed only a quarter of a goal per game.
While that's not necessarily the most sustainable plan for success over the course of a season, the Crew are facing the Sounders at the right time. Steve Zakuani and Mauro Rosales are both out, the latter having re-injured his hamstring after coming on as a sub against DC. Fredy Montero's wrist is clearly still bothering him and it's questionable as to whether he can go 90 minutes. Nate Jaqua looked gassed for much of the United game and there must be similar questions about his level of fitness. On Friday, Dave Clark at Sounder At Heart gave us the news that Sigi Schmid expects at least one or two changes to each band of the Sounders lineup, meaning it's likely that we'll see one of Roger Levesque or Mike Fucito starting up top, Servando Carrasco starting in the midfield and Leo Gonzales and/or Jeff Parke in defense.
A very defensive lineup and approach would seem to be the likeliest scenario, with two holding in the center possibility and even a remote chance of Leo Gonzales starting in the wide midfield. The Sounders will be desperate to get a point from this eastward swing, and though the better chance at doing so was likely against DC if the Sounders can hold together defensively (something that was most certainly not the case on Wednesday) and assert themselves in the midfield battle they'll have a good chance to keep the clean sheet and perhaps even knick a goal and take all three points.
In honesty however, the Crew have to be considered favorites. The Sounders looked positively atrocious against United and they'll be coming into this one a weakened side against a superior opponent. If Seattle can manage to get home without picking up any further key injuries, that in and of itself would have to be considered a minor victory; with the Portland Timbers' first MLS visit to Qwest Field a week away, the Sounders can scarcely afford any further weakening of the squad. Expect a gritty, tense affair at Crew Stadium this evening and hope that Seattle's attentions aren't focused too far ahead.