SEATTLE SOUNDERS FC v. COLUMBUS CREW SC

by Charles Therrell (DISK DOKTOR)

Greetings to my brothers and sisters in Green. Our boys in Green return to the Evergreen bloodied, but unbowed to face Columbus Crew in a Saturday matinee at Royal Brougham Park.

With the side struggling to get positive results support is more vital than ever. Seek out the members of the Green Family and assemble at the ground today in the name of generating a towering noise that has never before been heard. Those of our number outside of Seattle need to gather up your mates to flip some beer mats. Shouldn’t be too difficult to manage. Weekend + football + beer = potentially legendary times.

Yeh? Are ye with me Green Fam? Assemble at your mate’s house, or at the pub. Adversity has fashioned us a chance to show our mettle to the rest of the league. Our spirit can’t be broken. That’s right, Rest of the League! It takes more than just a few crap results. So there that places us, supporting the Sounders, voices loud, eyes bright. Our numbers will be legion.

Whether you’re at the ground, Doyle’s, Atlantic Crossing, Fuel, Danny Coyle’s in the Haight, St. Stephen’s Green in Mountain View, or the CommonWealth in Pill Hill join me in the auld toast before kick-off: TO THE SEATTLE SOUNDERS FOOTBALL CLUB…AND VICTORY!!!

pint
Last week, I sat dead-eyed on the settee. I managed to utter just one word after silencing the jackhammer-like irritating post-match commentary of ESPN. “Shambles”.

The Good News
As it stands, it looks like Frei, Leerdam, Nouhou Tolo, Alonso, Lodeiro, Cristian Roldan, Bruin, and Dempsey are all available for selection. That’s eight out of 11 first choice players, and considering the situation we find ourselves in, that’s not bad at all.

We got respectable performances from rotation players, Kim, Alex Roldan, and Svensson on Sunday. It is likely that all three will be in the team again today, so let’s hope they continue to play up.

If not for the rare, spectacular cock-up by Stefan Frei on that late free kick at Figueroa Street on Sunday, we might have walked away with a point. That’s twice we’ve been hard done by LAFC. Well, that’s MLS for you. A league based on parity tends to have narrow margins between defeat and victory.

Of the six matches we’ve played so far, we had a chance to get a result in every one except for the epic fail in Dallas where we crashed 3:0. Although the results don’t show it with wins and points, it would be pretty dismissive to refute the argument that had things gone just a bit differently, three of those four losses could have been draws or victories.

The Bad News
Last we faced Columbus at Silver Drive in 2017 we got the shite kicked out of us, 3:0. The Crew have shifted some personnel since then, but it doesn’t paint a pretty picture when we’re missing half our defence, struggling to score goals, and having difficulty keeping possession.

In my estimation, be it ever so humble, Marshall and Torres are two of the best centre-halves in MLS, if not the best. It is entirely possible that neither will be in the team today. Although Kim and Svensson did a pretty decent job of holding their own on Sunday, that’s no substitute for having Marshall and Torres healthy and in the team.

Although Alex Roldan has got moves and some pretty amazing skills, filling Jordan Morris’ boots is a lofty ambition for a player just out of university. Plenty of flashes of brilliance, punctuated by a fair amount of ordinary play, and the occasional failure to switch to cover overlapping defenders.

Support play and fundamental decision-making on the ball were extremely spotty for long periods on Sunday. I thought I would burst a blood vessel in my eye because it was so difficult to watch the side opt to dribble through or attempt close control one-twos through six or seven defenders, conceding the ball far more often than generating any dangerous chances or maintaining possession. We learn it at schoolboy level that when eight defenders start crowding one side of the pitch, you switch the play. You do this, regardless of whether or not you’ve signed a pro contract or not. It can’t be like that again, regardless of who is in the team.

At times player movement was static in the team on Sunday. A player would make a pass, and instead of immediately running to support would watch the pass go to the receiver’s feet. Watching several Sounders passing to marked players facing away from goal was making my eyes bleed. It’s just sloppy football that comes off as slapdash and unprofessional.

If you were hoping that the club would sign a true number ten or ace striker in the recently closed transfer window, I assure you that that did not happen. Sounders’ GM, Garth Lagerwey has gone on record heralding a new era of frugality. He could not have chosen to do so at a worse possible time. I don’t know if the ownership group has tightened the purse strings for transfers, or if the decision to embrace “efficiency” was Lagerwey’s to make. Either way, there is no relief currently in sight. What you see today – this is your team. For the record, I believe that Lagerwey should be granted a certain amount of latitude (within reason), as he was the primary architect of two MLS Cup Final appearances in the past two seasons. This would be a bad season for a total collapse to happen, as the Supporter’s Alliance is meant to vote on whether or not to retain him. A vote of no confidence by the Alliance would cost him his position at the club.

Victor Rodriguez may have had more than just a sprained knee as it turns out. Rodriguez had arthroscopic surgery this week on his ailing knee. As clubs are rightfully cagey when it comes to dispensing injury information, we have no idea if that was exploratory surgery, or if damage in the joint was repaired. So I have no way of gauging the severity of his injury or projecting his recovery time. If I had to guess maybe a month to fully heal from an exploratory surgery, six weeks or longer for damage surgically repaired. Add to that time to get back to match fitness in training. I wouldn’t expect to see him in the team or on the substitute’s bench any time soon.

Should Nouhou Tolo fall due to injury, we will probably have to play three at the back, as Francis is nursing a hamstring problem of unknown severity. Thus there may be no cover at left-back at least for this match.

If Bruin gets hurt, we don’t have another target striker as cover. Dempsey generally plays as an inside-forward or withdrawn centre-forward. Cover at forward is limited to Neagle, and emergency options such as calling up Adekoya, Chenkam, or Estrada. Ocampo-Chavez might be capable, but I doubt it’s a sensible management choice to place that level of pressure on a 16-year-old.

Alonso, Marshall, Torres, Dempsey, and Neagle are all getting a bit long in the tooth. They aren’t past it yet, not by any means, but you get the feeling that there’s no insurance if things turn pear-shaped.

Know Thine Enemy
Goalkeeper –
Steffen, 23, continues his three-year career played entirely with Columbus. Steffen has played 42 matches for the Crew, earning 11 clean sheets. He played all 34 league matches for Columbus last season. Steffen has two caps for United States. The young goalkeeper began his pro career in Germany with SC Freiburg, playing 14 matches with their reserve team during the 2015-16 season.

Defence –
Valenzuela, 19, is an Argentinian national developed by Newell’s Old Boys. Valenzuela is currently on loan from Newell’s with the agreement giving Columbus the option to sign him after the end of the MLS season. Valenzuela began his career for Newell’s in 2016 playing 13 matches over his first two seasons there. Valenzuela has played in all nine matches for the Crew this season, starting eight of them. Valenzuela has 10 youth caps for Argentina.

Abubakar, 23, is a Ghanian national who signed with Columbus in 2017. The young centre-half has played 13 times for the Crew over the last two seasons.

Mensah, 27, is a Ghanian national that signed with Columbus in 2017. Mensah’s career began in Ghana where he played 68 matches scoring four goals combined for Ashanti Gold and Free State Stars. In 2010, Mensah signed with Udinese of Italy’s Serie A. Mensah wouldn’t play any first-team football at Udinese, resulting in his loan to Granada (Spanish 2nd division) (15 matches played). Mensah then moved to Evian of France’s Ligue 1 where he would play 49 times scoring two goals in his five seasons there. Having struggled to get first-team football in France, 2016 saw Mensah move to a Russian club (15 matches played) before making his move to Ohio. Since his move to Columbus, he has played 35 matches. Mensah has started all nine matches for the Crew this season. Mensah has 60 caps and one goal for Ghana.

Afful, 31, is a Ghanian national developed by Feyenoord Academy. Four years in Ghanian football produced over 200 matches and 10 goals for Afful. In 2009, Afful would move to a Tunisian club playing 119 matches and scoring 11 goals over six seasons. 2015 saw the veteran defender move to Ohio where he has played 72 matches over four seasons. Afful has 76 caps for Ghana.

Midfield –
Artur, 22 is a Brazilian national produced by Sao Paulo FC. Beginning his pro career in 2016, Artur would play four times for Sao Paulo before going on loan to Columbus. During his loan spell in the Midwest, Artur would play 24 times for the Crew. After the 2017 season, Columbus elected to sign Artur to a permanent contract. Since his arrival in Columbus, Artur has played 33 matches.

Trapp, 25, was produced by Columbus Crew Academy and Akron (NCAA). Trapp began his professional career in 2013 with Columbus, his only professional club. Trapp has played 135 times for the Crew in his six-year MLS career. In the 2017 season, Trapp started all 34 matches for Columbus. Trapp has four caps for United States.

Pedro Santos, 30, is a Portuguese national and veteran of Portuguese football. Santos’ career began at Casa Pia in 2008 after playing at the youth academies of Sporting CP and Casa Pia. Notable previous clubs on Santos’ resume include Vitoria (28 matches/4 goals), and Braga (76/18). After unsuccessful loan spells in Romania and Portugal, Santos moved to Ohio in 2017 signing as a Designated Player. Santos has played 18 matches since signing with Columbus in 2017. Santos has two youth caps for Portugal.

Higuain, 33, is an Argentinian national produced by River Plate. Higuain began his career at River Plate but could find only five matches of first team football over four seasons of play. A successful loan followed at Nueva Chicago (Argentina 2nd division) where Higuain played 77 times scoring 29 goals. In 2007, Higuain moved to Besiktas in the Turkish league. He would only play 14 matches in Istanbul, before being loaned out to Club America in Mexico (13 matches played). Struggling to find his place, Higuain would return to Argentina in 2008 where he would play with Independiente, Godoy Cruz, and Colon (totalling 116 matches/22 goals). In 2012, Higuain would opt to move to Ohio and has been with Columbus ever since. Higuain has appeared 153 times for the Crew scoring 50 goals. Higuain has played and started all nine matches for the Crew so far this season.

Hansen, 23, is a dual-national of United States and Denmark. In 2014, the young American winger played nine times scoring two goals for Sounders FC U-23s during his university football career at New Mexico (NCAA). In 2017, Columbus selected Hansen in the first round of the SuperDraft and began his professional career in Ohio. Hansen has played 19 times over two seasons for the Crew scoring two goals. As only five of his 19 appearances with Columbus were as a starter, it would seem he is a rotation player providing cover when required. Born in Denmark, but living in the United States for most of his life, Hansen is eligible to be selected by either the Yanks or Denmark.

Forward –
Zardes, 26, Long our nemesis whilst playing for Los Angeles Galaxy, he arrived in Columbus this January in a straight swap deal that sent Ola Kamara to Carson. Produced by Cal State Bakersfield (NCAA) and LA Galaxy Academy, Zardes took the Academy/University route to MLS and LA Galaxy who signed Zardes to a Homegrown Player contract in 2013, likely based on the merit of the 38 goals he had scored in 56 matches at university. Zardes represented LA Galaxy 131 times scoring 34 goals before his transfer to Silver Drive. Zardes has played nine of nine matches this season for the Crew. He’ll be in the team unless he’s hurt, suspended, or playing for the Yanks. Zardes has earned 38 United States caps, scoring six goals. In a side note, Virtual Zardes had a problem with Alex Hunter keeping late nights. I’m just sayin’.

Familiar Faces
Columbus forward, Adam Jahn, began his career with Washington Crossfire (5 matches/3 goals). Columbus forward, Niko Hansen, played for the Sounders U-23s (9 matches/2 goals).

Squads
Sounders FC from: Frei, Meredith, Brown, Alfaro, Francis, Kim, Leerdam, Marshall, McCrary, Nouhou Tolo, Torres, Alonso, Bwana, Delem, Eikrem, Lodeiro, Neagle, Cristian Roldan, Alex Roldan, Shipp, Svensson, Wingo, Bruin, Dempsey.

Columbus from: Kempin, Ketterer, Steffen, Abubakar, Afful, Maloney, Mensah, Sauro, Valenzuela, Williams, Abu, Argudo, Clark, Artur, Grella, Hansen, Higuain, Jimenez, Martinez, Pedro Santos, Sosa, Trapp, Jahn, Zardes.

Injury List
Sounders FC –
OUT: Morris (ACL), Rodriguez (knee surgery).
MATCHDAY DECISION: Torres (hamstring), Shipp (ankle), Francis (hamstring), Marshall (neck).

Columbus –
OUT: Lundgaard (thumb surgery).
MATCHDAY DECISION: none.

Discipline
None suspended for this match.

Fun Fact
Sounders Academy goalkeeper Sam Fowler has been invited to USA U-19 training camp as reported by Joseph Mondello of soundersfc.com. Fowler has played twice for Sounders FC2. Congratulations, Sam. Do us proud, lad.

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