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August 26, 2011 at 10:21 PM

Sounders FC vs. Columbus Crew, preview and prediction

Columbus Crew Logo.jpgSounders FC (12-5-9) vs. Columbus Crew (11-7-7)

Saturday, August 27, 1 p.m., CenturyLink Field, Seattle, Wash.

TV/radio: KONG-TV 6/16, KIRO-FM 97.3 AM (Arlo White, Erin Mayovsky)

Spanish radio: La Gran D 99.3 FM

Referee: Baldomero Toledo

KEY CREW PLAYERS

D Chad Marshall — Arguably one of the best defenders in MLS history and still one of the best in the game, even if you don’t hear about him as much. A lot more responsibility will fall on his shoulders with his center-back mate Julius James suspended. He doesn’t have any goals this season, which means he might be due for one on a set piece.

GK William Hesmer — No Eastern Conference team has allowed less goals than Columbus’ 24. The 29-year-old deserves some credit for that. His stats are certainly solid: 66 saves, 1.04 goals-against average and seven shutouts. Like I’ve been saying all season, opposing goalkeepers are always ones to watch against the Sounders.

F Andres Mendoza — Eight goals are a team high. Three have come from the spot, where he isn’t shy in grabbing the ball from his teammates. Sometimes you need that attitude as a striker, especially playing in front of a hostile crowd of 36,000. Four game-winners are second best in MLS.

KEY MATCHUPS

Alvaro Fernandez vs. Sebastian Miranda — Mauro Rosales has garnered a lot of attention, but Flaco has certainly become one of the most valuable members on the team. His nose for goal is incredible, but he’ll be challenged by the Crew’s underrated right back, whose 2,234 minutes are second most to Marshall.

Tommy Heinemann vs. Jhon Kennedy Hurtado — Columbus’ forward was actually the partner to Lamar Neagle in Charleston, where the two dominated USL-2 up front. Young (24 years old), tall (6-foot-4) and improving (first year in MLS), he’ll be a handful for the Sounders’ back line and Hurtado, who’s trying to regain his top form.

Seattle’s hot streak vs. parity — Even the best teams in the league can only stay hot for so long, right? Heck, MLS is built specifically on keeping things even and balanced. The Sounders have rallied to earn some big wins, but there are never any gimmes and the Crew will be motivated to beat a former coach for the first time.

PREDICTION

After what we’ve seen recently, it’s really tough to pick against the Sounders, and Columbus’ road record of 3-6-3 is quite pedestrian for a first-place team. The injuries have been piling up for the Crew: Tony Tchani (knee), Eddie Gaven (leg), Shaun Francis (adductor) and more.

Plus, with Robbie Rogers not at full strength, I’m not sure I see the visitors breaking through for an away goal. Seattle, I think, has one in ’em and it’ll come from someone long overdue for an MLS breakthrough.

Three more points for the rave green…

Sounders FC 1, Columbus Crew 0

SEA — Mike Fucito (Mauro Rosales) 40′

* * *

What do your foresee happening in this one?

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