Generally I only do previews and predictions for league games, but this one is important enough. Or should be, as many contended in my preview story in today’s paper. There should be a great atmosphere tonight at Qwest Field for the 7 p.m. kickoff and here are some of my keys to the game.
1. How does Columbus handle the environment? The visitors are buzzing around these days with league game last Saturday and another one coming Friday sandwiching tonight’s final. Not like they’ll get any travel sympathy from Sounders FC. Coupled that workload with playing in front of a hostile ground and on a new surface (and in a new uniform combination) the visitors will need to come up big to get the win.
2. Can Seattle contain the Crew wingers? In Seattle’s 4-0 rout on the road a couple weeks ago, what might’ve been lost was Columbus midfielder Emmanuel Ekpo running wild on the right flank. Eddie Gaven is also one of the league’s best on the left. Robbie Rogers is getting healthy too and is a standout when fully fit. If those guys are free to provide service to Lenhart and Co. in the middle, they’ll be in it until the end.
3. Can anyone beat Sounders FC right now? After early season struggles, Seattle is playing as well as any team in the league right now. Success in the early rounds of the Open Cup might have sparked that form as well. Add that to the team’s unbeaten run at home recently and anything but a win in front of the Qwest fans would be a shock and disappointment.
Prediction: Sounders FC 2, Columbus Crew 0
43′ — Fredy Montero (Sanna Nyassi)
68′ — Blaise Nkufo (Steve Zakuani)
What’s your pick?