The Columbus Crew SC will go on the road to face the struggling Seattle Sounders at CenturyLink Field on Saturday with a much different look than when the teams met last season.
Columbus defeated the Sounders 3-0 at home last May in the only meeting last season.
Forward Ola Kamara is now with the LA Galaxy and winger Justin Meram left to Orlando City. Columbus acquired forward Gyasi Zardes in exchange for Kamara during the offseason.
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After having his worst season with the Galaxy last year — becoming the first player in franchise history to start more than 10 games without scoring a goal — Zardes has fared well with Columbus (4-3-2) with five goals in his first nine games.
“He’s had a little career revival, that happens sometimes,” said Seattle coach Brian Schmetzer, whose last-place team in the West is 1-4-1 with four points. “You move to a difference club and you get a little spark, you get a little bump.”
Schmetzer indicated that the Sounders will prepare for the style Columbus is accustomed to play under fifth-year coach Gregg Berhalter. He stresses team to keep possession and push wide backs high while playing with three defenders at the back.
“Their style of (play) is very progressive,” Sounders midfielder Cristian Roldan said on the Sounders’ Web site. “Berhalter does an extremely good job in coaching their players tactically. They don’t have their big names (Kamara or Meram), but they make the most of every space and every player that they have on their team.”
Columbus is led by Argentine midfielder Federico Higuain, who has four assists. Seattle is emphasizing controlling him in order to shut down the Crew SC’s attack. Shutting him down will go a long way in helping Seattle earn its second straight home victory.
“Higuain is obviously special, you have to be aware of him at all times and at times you have to have a guy on him just running around (defending),” Roldan said. “He’s very clever, and if you can eliminate the ball getting to him, first and foremost, you’ll be in a better spot going forward.”
An interesting subplot of the game is Roldan playing against Columbus’ Wil Trapp, two of the youngest and most talented midfielders the U.S. has to offer. With the U.S. not taking part in the World Cup this summer, Roldan and Trapp have the opportunity to audition themselves for the qualifying round in a couple years.
Trapp and Roldan played together with the U.S. in a March friendly against Paraguay, a game in which Trapp captained.
“I’ve gotten the chance to know (Roldan) a lot more recently,” said Trapp on MLSSoccer.com. “I always just loved watching him play: his quality on the ball, the way he just drives Seattle with every facet of his game. And then getting to know him on a personal level, my respect went up for him even more.
“He’s a really humble, down-to-Earth guy who just loves to play soccer. You can see why he’s a fan favorite and why he has such a bright future ahead of him.”