The Columbus Crew are the defending MLS champions and going into Saturday’s game against the Seattle Sounders FC, riding a 22-game home unbeaten streak, a 16-win and six-tie roll dating back to June 7th, 2008.
The coach of that team, Sigi Schmid, now sits in the coach’s box for the Sounders. Schmid knows haw hard it is to come into Columbus and come away with a point. Thanks to a tight playoff race, Seattle needed to get at least a point. The full three would be like getting a Christmas kiss from an angel.
Schmid changed his lineup by inserting Roger Levesque, a move that took even Levesque by surprise. It paid off big in the 36th minute as Levesque cashed in on a ricochet from a Fredy Montero shot blocked by Crew goalkeeper William Hesner. It was Levesque’s first goal in the MLS and it showed in his lack of a celebration plan.
Columbus didn’t go away without a fight. In the 70th minute, Crew forward Stephen Lenhart headed a floater over Sounders goalkeeper Kasey Keller. The ball was dropping neatly into the Seattle goal when Sounders defender Tyronne Marshall got a toe on it to drive it back out of the goal short of the line.
Seattle has had a problem with maturity all season. Although that can be expected from a young team, even veteran Freddie Ljungberg has not been immune. Crew defender Gino Padula spent most of the match in Ljungberg’s face screaming at him every time Ljungberg hit the ground, goading him into a confrontation that Ljungberg seemed too interested in pursuing in a match as vital as this.
Ironically, the Crew seemed to spend most of the match crying to the officials and flopping at the slightest hint of contact. Despite having more possession, this strategy which killed the flow on several Crew attacks. Referee Ricardo Salazar played no attention to his theatrics, allowing the play to continue. This benefited the Sounders more physical style of play.
The Sounders immaturity led to the next Crew scoring opportunity in the 81st minute. Crew forward Eddie Gavin was chasing a loose ball to the Sounder end line but rapidly running out of room. Sounder defender Jhon Kennedy Hurtado showed the streak of rashness that has cost Seattle more than once this season by shoving Gavin in the back. Referee Salazar immediately pointed at the penalty spot and could have easily shown Hurtado the showers.
Golden Boot contender and reigning MLS MVP Guillermo Barros Schelotto stepped up to take the penalty. As the crowd danced in anticipation, Keller danced along his line as well. Schelotto approached the ball slowly, waiting for Keller to commit himself. Keller refused, stayed in the middle and messed up the shot. Schelotto muffed the shot which trickled weakly wide left.
After that, Columbus launched more desperate attacks as Seattle held on by subbing in defensive replacements to match the Crew’s offensive replacements but Columbus was never able to come up with a better opportunity than those two.
Seattle held off and watched the clock tick down on a 22 home unbeaten streak and more immediately important for the Sounders, three big points to stay alive in the playoff hunt, vital as Seattle is now tied with Chivas USA at 41 points. Now Seattle is off league play until traveling to Kansas City to take on the Wizards on Saturday night, October 17th.