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.