Sounders FC needs points.
But the Sounders on Saturday will be in the most difficult place in Major League Soccer for visiting teams to find them: Crew Stadium in Columbus, Ohio.
Columbus has a 22-game home unbeaten streak (16-0-6) dating back to last season. And the Crew has won five consecutive home games, meaning no visiting team has left Columbus with even one point since D.C. United managed a 1-1 draw on July 4.
Even at that, Sounders coach Sigi Schmid – who led Columbus to the MLS title last season when the home unbeaten streak began – said his team won’t change its attacking personality in hopes of escaping Columbus with a draw and a point in the standings.
“We have to get points,” Schmid said. “The playoff race is very tight, and we need to get points. So we need to go in there and come out of there with three (points) if we can get them, and one if we can’t get three. We want to make sure we get something.”
The Sounders (9-7-11) rank seventh in the race for the MLS’ eight-team playoffs. However, they would be caught or passed tonight if New England gets a draw or a win at FC Dallas.
This whole idea of a playoff race is new to Sounders designated player Freddie Ljungberg, who spent his previous 10 seasons in the English Premier League. But whether it’s playing for a cup or for playoff position, Ljungberg said competitors should look forward to playing in important games.
“This is supposed to be fun,” he said Tuesday after training. “At the end of the season and the pressure’s on, you should cherish that opportunity. For me to play soccer at the beginning of the season when it doesn’t really matter, that’s quite easy. Now that it matters and you need to have your cool, I think people should look forward to it.”
And rather than concerning himself with all the ins and outs of the MLS playoff possibilities, he is taking the attitude that the only scoreboard the Sounders can influence is their own.
“In the past, I just look for the game I’m going to play, and I want to win every game,” he said. “I don’t care if it’s at Columbus or wherever it is. I think you always have a belief in yourself and your ability. If we play the football we can play and not fall into their game plan, I think we can win anywhere. It would be a big upset to win in Columbus, so that would be nice.”
Don Ruiz, 253-597-8808