Columbus prepare for another Sigi showdown
The hoopla has dwindled, but certainly hasn’t disappeared for the Crew as they prepare to face their former coach for the third time Saturday in Seattle.
Sigi Schmid joined the expansion Sounders after guiding the Crew to its only MLS Cup title in 2008. The teams tied 1-1 in Seattle in the first meeting last May, but the Sounders stunned the Crew 1-0 in Columbus on Oct. 3 to snap a league-record 24-game home unbeaten streak.
“It’s a little bit special,” Crew midfielder Robbie Rogers said. “If anyone says differently they’re lying or trying to hide it. There’s a little more emotion. I know he’ll feel the same way.”
There are still 19 players on the roster from Schmid’s last game Crew game.
“It’s just another game, but we know he will be on the bench. He knows us,” Crew forward Guillermo Barros Schelotto.
Schelotto can be casual for a reason. The Crew have more to worry about than who’s coaching the other team.
Crew boss Robert Warzycha will face his predecessor without MLS Defender of the Year Chad Marshall (hamstring), left back Gino Padula (knee) and reserve midfielder Emmanuel Ekpo (hip flexor).
Warzycha, however, has given every indication that Schelotto will start, despite the artificial turf at Qwest Field. The Crew has traditionally opted to keep their 36 year-old star off the turf to lessen the risk of injury or fatigue.
But Schelotto is simply too valuable to sideline now. He’s scored four of the club’s five goals this season, including the game-winning tally from the penalty spot against Real Salt Lake last weekend at Crew Stadium.
But the Crew have managed just two goals from the run of play this season, which has raised some concerns going forward.
“We have to have some midfielders scoring goals,” Warzycha said. “They have to play better. They have to finish chances. It’s as simple as that. They have to be sharp from distance. They have to be overlapping.”
Warzycha is more comfortable with his backline, even without Marshall and Padula. Danny O'Rourke returns from a red card suspension and will likely play on the left side as he did in the first two matches.
Marshall’s role in the central defense will be filled Iro. He started both matches there in the Champions League quarterfinal series against Toluca in March and twice during the regular season.
The Crew is 5-0-3 in league play and have outscored opponents 13-6 the past two years when Iro and defender Eric Brunner are paired together, as they will be this weekend.
“We work well together,” Brunner said. “We’ve learned a lot over the last year. Our communication has gotten better.”
The Crew will play on back-to-back weeks for the first time this season and Rogers hopes that will make a difference after he called last week’s win over RSL one of the worst home efforts in recent memory
“After you play a few games you get into a rhythm,” he said. “Our performances will be a little more consistent as the weeks go on.”