COLUMBUS – From front to back, top to bottom nothing seems to favor the Crew in Tuesday’s US Open Cup final against Seattle Sounders FC.
The game will be at a raucous Qwest Field with a record crowd of 32,000-plus expected to see Seattle defend the title they won as an expansion team last year at D.C. United.
Columbus had lobbied hard to host the championship game named for their owner, just as it was the home team in 2002 when the Crew defeated the LA Galaxy 1-0 for their first trophy in its seven-year existence.
In the end all that matters, though, is what happens on the field. The Crew are hoping it won’t mirror what happened the last time they played Seattle: a 4-0 loss last month.
Crew coach Robert Warzycha and his counterpart Sigi Schmid said afterward that the result was not reflective of the match.
Seattle got the first of three goals by Blaise Nkufo in the fourth minute then were outplayed for a half hour as the Crew missed chance after chance. Nkufo provided a killer strike in the 39th and Nathan Sturgis converted Seattle’s first penalty kick in history a few minutes later.
Even San Jose coach Frank Yallop didn’t think the final margin was indicative of the play.
“Sometimes you struggle and you don’t know why,” he said. “Columbus got beat 4-0 by Seattle and they didn’t play that badly but they conceded goals.”
If the Crew are to have any chance this time, they need the finishing that their opponents Nkufo and Fredy Montero provide for Seattle. The Crew were once again horrid around the net during a 0-0 tie Saturday against San Jose.
The Crew probably won’t get more than two or three good looks against goalkeeper Kasey Keller so it must be clinical or face the prospect of being blanked again.
Fortunately, Columbus finally looked like their old solid selves on defense, holding the Earthquakes scoreless after yielding nine goals in the previous three games. Backup keeper Andy Gruenebaum has played throughout the Open Cup run and should get the call once more.
Warzycha had mixed and matched regulars and reserves in the prior Open Cup games but will go with his best XI on Tuesday despite an MLS game Friday at the Chicago Fire.
Unlike the semifinal win over D.C. United on Sept. 1, he will have the services of then-injured midfielders Robbie Rogers and Emmanuel and forward Andres Mendoza, who had not been signed. Also, forward Emilio Renteria was with the Venezuelan national team at the time.
Schmid is 2-0-2 against the team he coached to the 2008 MLS Cup but both ties were 1-1 in Seattle before sellout crowds.