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May 23, 2012 at 11:07 AM

Sounders FC vs. Columbus Crew, preview and prediction

Columbus Crew Logo.jpgSounders FC (7-2-2) vs. Columbus Crew (3-4-3)

Wednesday, May 23, 7 p.m., CenturyLink Field, Seattle, Wash.

TV/radio: KONG-TV 6/16, 97.3 KIRO-FM (Ross Fletcher, Kasey Keller)

Spanish TV/radio: KOMO2, La Gran D 99.3 FM

Referee: Geoff Gamble

KEY CREW PLAYERS

M Eddie Gaven — An MLS veteran despite being just 25 years old. Hard to believe this is his 10th season in the league. I actually watched him play once at RFK Stadium (he scored the winning goal in overtime vs. D.C. United) a month after my high-school graduation, if you can believe that. Very versatile and hard-working. Has a pair of goals, which is tied for the team lead. Coach Sigi Schmid had very good things to say about his former player and said he’ll be one to watch.

F Justin Meram — The second-year forward has goals in each of his last two games. Was drafted in the first round of the 2011 MLS SuperDraft out of Michigan and is pretty athletic at 6 foot 1. Columbus hasn’t had much success against the Sounders (0-4-3 in all competitions) and will need its hot hand to stay hot Wednesday.

GK Andy Gruenebaum — The only player that has played every minute this season and took hold of the job when Will Hesmer went out with a hip injury. He’s also one of the few players still around from the Schmid era. Stats aren’t so bad with three shutouts, a 76-percent save percentage and a 1.20 goals-against average.

KEY MATCHUPS

Milovan Mirosevic vs. Osvaldo Alonso — The Chilean playmaker has also started each game this season for the Crew and wears the No. 10 jersey, which is an indication of what Columbus wants him to do. He’ll face perhaps his most difficult task of the season against Seattle’s ball-winning superstar in the middle.

Alvaro Fernandez vs. Sebastian Miranda — Flaco is still working on getting sharp after missing a few weeks with the quad injury. Schmid said his role might have to become a little bit different (more of a defensive posture, more late runs), so we’ll see how that works. The Crew right back has been one of the team’s most consistent players over the past couple years.

Seattle’s dominance in the series vs. MLS parity — As mentioned before, the Sounders have a 4-0-3 in the series, which has been a sore spot for the Crew against its former coach. Blaise Nkufo and Lamar Neagle had recorded hat tricks in previous games, both were four-goal wins. But as we know, anything can happen on any day in this league.

PREDICTION

As has also been covered on this blog this week, Columbus actually has more guys injured than the Sounders. They’re the only team in MLS that can claim that title and guys not expected to be available are Chad Marshall, Tommy Heinemann, Ethan Finlay, Rich Balchan, Julius James and others.

Seattle, on the other hand, could be a step closer to a first-choice squad if Brad Evans is able to return. I think several other factors weigh into the Sounders’ favor as well — home crowd, home turf and, simply, they’re a better team right now.

A see some goals, quite a few actually:

Sounders FC 3, Columbus Crew 1

SEA — Fredy Montero (Mauro Rosales) 4′

SEA — Eddie Johnson (Adam Johansson) 29′

CLB — Dilly Duka (Milovan Mirosevic) 63′

SEA — Montero (David Estrada) 85′

* * *

What do you think? How do you see it playing out?

COMMENTS

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