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August 31, 2013 at 1:18 PM

Sounders FC vs. Columbus Crew, preview and prediction

Columbus Crew LogoSounders FC (11-8-4) vs. Columbus Crew (8-12-5)
Saturday, Aug. 31, 4:30 p.m., Crew Stadium, Columbus, Ohio
TV/radio: KONG 6/16, KIRO 97.3-FM (Ross Fletcher, Kasey Keller)
Spanish TV/radio: THIS-TV (KOMO2), La Gran D 99.3 FM
Referee: Ismail Elfath

KEY CREW PLAYERS

D Chad Marshall — Hard to believe this guy is just 29 years old. He’s been such a mainstay for the Crew and the league for nearly a decade, having won MLS Defender of the Year and been named to the MLS Best XI in 2008 and 2009. Physical tools are always what stand out at 6 foot 3. He’s dominant in the air defensively and a target on set pieces offensively.

M Dominic Oduro — The speedster will have to assume more of the offensive responsibility with Federico Higuain suspended. Nine goals this season are already second most in his career (he had 12 with Chicago in 2011). He’s on his fifth team since 2008 but looks to have settled well in Columbus, and there might only be a handful of players in the league faster than him.

F Jairo Arrieta — Sigi Schmid described the Costa Rican international as a goal poacher, and he showed that well with nine goals in 18 games last season. This year has been more of a struggle with just two goals in 17 games. His last goal came June 29, though maybe more of the offense will go through him without Higuain running the show behind him.

KEY MATCHUPS

Clint Dempsey vs. Danny O’Rourke — Got to love that there is a giant Dempsey poster outside of Crew Stadium welcoming the Sounders to Columbus. O’Rourke will be less accommodating as a physical, defensive presence in the middle of the field. The USMNT captain hit the deck a bunch of times Sunday against Portland and it’s probably safe to assume he’ll have to dust himself off a time or two again tonight.

Eddie Johnson vs. Josh Williams — EJ is starting to get in a bit of a rhythm after a mini midseason slump. He has two goals in his last three games, not to mentioned three goals in his past four games with the national team. Williams, at 6 foot 2, has really established himself as a regular the past two seasons, and even scored three goals earlier this year.

Sunday’s big win vs. potential hangover — This one has all the ingredients for a letdown for the Sounders. Coming off a big win. Lots of success in Columbus (2-0-1 record, 6-1 goal differential). The Crew are shorthanded without Higuain, Eddie Gavin, Glauber. Three straight games at CenturyLink Field follow. We’ll see if Seattle has developed a killer instinct against what should be an overmatched opponent.

PREDICTION

Even without Obafemi Martins and Shalrie Joseph, the Sounders are looking pretty strong with its three USMNT players and a first-choice back six (defense plus Osvaldo Alonso and Michael Gspurning).

The Crew has lost four of six, seven of 10, and is without its best player.

Perhaps it should be no surprise five of six MLSsoccer.com prognosticators picked Seattle. I actually think the Sounders are due for a big win.

Sounders FC 3, Columbus 1

SEA — Eddie Johnson (Brad Evans) 34′
SEA — Lamar Neagle (Osvaldo Alonso) 44′
CLB — Dominic Oduro (Wil Trapp) 56′
SEA — Clint Dempsey (un) 65′

*     *     *

What do you think? How do you see this one playing out?

| More in Preview and prediction

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