Sounders FC

One homestand, two telling games for Sounders

This is one of those rare cases where Sounders FC is willing to take them two at a time.

Not completely, of course. The Sounders understand the concept of first-things-first and concentrating on the matter at hand. And that means that they’ll try to aim full focus on the Columbus Crew at 7:30 tonight when the two-time defending Supporters Shield winners kick off at Qwest Field.

However – perhaps because of Seattle’s 2-2-2 record – even the guy at the top was thinking in pairs this week, looking at back-to-back home games against Columbus and Los Angeles as double chances to get the season back on track in the wake of a 0-1-1 road trip.

“We’ve got two games at home,” coach Sigi Schmid said this week. “We were disappointed with the points we got in this last road trip. We weren’t necessarily disappointed with our play in Toronto, but we were disappointed that we didn’t get points. Always, we want to win at home; and if we can win these next two games at home, it does a lot of things for us. It gets us six points, which is the most important thing. We’re also playing two of the best teams in MLS, so it gives us confidence ... it allows us to measure ourselves these next two games against two of the better squads.”

Columbus and Los Angeles fit naturally as a pair because they are Major League Soccer’s only two clubs without a loss this season: Columbus arrives with a 2-0-1 record, while Los Angeles will take a 4-0-1 record into its game tonight against Philadelphia.

The Crew and Galaxy also represent two of the three clubs that finished ahead of the Sounders in the 2009 MLS standings: Columbus had the league’s best record, two points ahead of the Sounders; while Los Angeles matched Houston for the top spot in the West, one point ahead of Seattle.

The Crew has started this season with a home win over Toronto, a road draw at Dallas, and a home win last weekend against Real Salt Lake.

After beating RSL, several Crew players – most notably goalkeeper William Hesmer – indicated it was a statement that Columbus’ consecutive Supporters Shields are a better measure of success than Salt Lake’s 2009 MLS Cup.

The Sounders are hopeful such confidence by the Crew will cause them to play an aggressive game that has been rare among clubs visiting Qwest Field.

“Hopefully Columbus, regarded as a good team in the league, will come and they will attack a little bit and that will open up things for us,” Seattle designated player Freddie Ljungberg said. “In other games at home, people have just wanted to sit back and be defensive.”

Regardless of Columbus’ strategy, the Sounders are aiming for three points in the game that they see as the start of an eight-day opportunity to turn their season in the right direction.

“When you get opportunities to play two games at home, we need to take advantage of that,” goalkeeper Kasey Keller said. “It’s difficult to pick up points on the road in any sport for any team.”

Added time

Midfielder Stephen King, 24, was traded Friday to D.C. United in exchange for a second-round pick in the 2011 SuperDraft. King is in his third MLS season. He came to Seattle from Chicago in the expansion draft, but he did not appear in any matches this season. “Stephen is a wonderful guy and we want to thank him for his contributions,” Schmid said. “We wish him all the best.” ... Sounders FC also announced Friday that it has completed the signing of Colombian forward Miguel Montaño, an 18-year-old striker who made his first appearance last week with the Colombia U-20 national team. He will now be added to the official roster and is eligible to play. He has been training with the Sounders since March 17. “Montaño is an exciting, young attacking player with a big upside,” Schmid said through a Sounders release. “He has pace and is two-footed. We look forward to his stay with Sounders FC.”

Don Ruiz, 253-597-8808

don.ruiz@thenewstribune.com

blog.thenewstribune.com/soccer

Seattle Sounder gameday

COLUMBUS CREW (2-0-1; 7 pts.) AT SOUNDERS FC (2-2-2; 8 pts.)

7:30 p.m., Qwest Field.

TV: KING 5. Radio: 97.3 FM (1210 AM in Spanish).

Head-to-head: Seattle is 1-0-1 vs. Columbus. The clubs played to a 1-1 draw in Seattle, but the Sounders snapped the Crew’s MLS-record 22-game home unbeaten run in Columbus, 1-0. This season’s return match is Sept. 18.

Team leaders: For Columbus – G3 Guillermo Barros Schelotto; A 1, three players tied; S 8 Rogers; SOG 4 Schelotto. For Seattle – G 2, Fredy Montero, Steve Zakuani; A 2, Montero, Osvaldo Alonso; S 17, Montero; SOG 7, Montero.

Kasey Keller on the Crew: “Columbus has been one of the top teams for the last couple of years. ... They have a good balance between experience and youth and we have to make sure we play the way we’re capable of playing. It’s a little bit of an opportunity for us to set our authority on our home form. It’s a couple of good teams and really show the league we’re legit.”

Notes: Columbus is the two-time defending Supporters Shield champion. ... The Crew is one of two unbeaten clubs remaining in MLS. The other is Los Angeles, which visits next week. ... Sounders coach Sigi Schmid coached Columbus from 2006-2008. ... Crew coach Robert Warzycha said he might rest 37-year-old star Schelotto, protecting him from the pounding of Qwest’s artificial surface. Schmid said he doesn’t know if that is a serious possibility or mere gamesmanship by the man who succeeded him. Schelotto has said he wants to play. ... Columbus averages 1.67 goals per game and allows 0.67; Seattle scores and allows 1.17. Through six games, the Sounders have given up three goals after the 76th minute. ... Seattle forwards Pat Noonan (hamstring) and Michael Fucito (knee) are out. Columbus defender Shaun Francis (ankle) is out, and defenders Chad Marshall (hamstring) and Gino Padula (knee) are doubtful. Marshall was 2009 MLS defender of the year. ... Last season, Seattle played five games in the month of May, all draws. ... The referee will be Ricardo Salazar.

Next: Los Angeles, 1 p.m. May 8, Qwest Field.

Don Ruiz, Staff writer

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