OBETZ – Columbus Crew SC went back to work Tuesday at the EAS Training Center at Obetz in preparation for the incoming Seattle Sounders FC on yet another short week of rest. It was all systems go for the Black & Gold before they return to the pitch at MAPFRE Stadium for Wednesday night’s match against the defending Major League Soccer Cup Champions.
Muting the Sounders
Seattle, winners of two matches in a row, will be without two of their foremost attackers on Wednesday in Columbus due to Clint Dempsey and Jordan Morris being called away for international duty for the United States Men’s National Team. But Crew SC Sporting Director and Head Coach Gregg Berhalter does not plan on looking past the Sounders.
“They have a good run going,” Berhalter said. “I think it’s a team that likes to have the ball. I think they have two very strong midfielders on their team and it’s a good team, so it’s going to be a tough test.”
The midfielders Berhalter was referring to are Nicolás Lodeiro and Cristian Roldan. Crew SC’s chances of winning balls in the midfield will depend on how it handles Lodeiro and Roldan.
“Lodeiro is a difference maker in this league,” Berhalter said. “He’s a good player and we have to contain him. Roldan is a player that has developed really nicely over the last couple of years and is a solid player in this league. We’re going to have to be aware of them.”
First in a long time, last for a long time
Wednesday’s match will mark the first at home for the Black & Gold since May 10 against Toronto FC and the last at home until June 24 against the Montreal Impact. The comforts of home are not lost on Berhalter and company in preparations for a rare Western Conference opponent in Seattle.
“It’s a big game,” Berhalter said. “It’s nice to be back home. It’s nice to get back in MAPFRE Stadium and it’s been a while. We’re just looking forward to it. We really enjoy playing at home and we think we have an advantage playing at home and we’re excited to be back.”
MAPFRE Stadium is also the former home to a pair of Seattle defenders. Chad Marshall and Brad Evans are both former members of the Black & Gold and will make a rare return to the pitch in Columbus on the opposing side. Marshall played 10 years for Crew SC and is a former MLS Defender of the Year for the club. Evans played his first two seasons as a professional with Columbus, with both winning the 2008 MLS Cup.
Hard at work
Crew SC defender Waylon Francis has been all over the field in recent weeks, often making his way upfield on attacking chances. Francis said Wednesday that the defense as a whole has been putting in a lot of time working on defending in transition.
“The defense is trying to work harder every single training session,” Francis said. “That’s going to be the key. The defense is trying to communicate with each other every time.”
Next man up
Last Friday’s match against Toronto was defender Harrison Afful’s first match back in almost a month after taking a leave due to the birth of his son. Afful could not be happier to be back on the pitch and was impressed with the team’s depth in his absence.
“I think with this team, one of our strengths is that the next person is capable of doing the job. That is the most important thing,” Afful said. “For me, I’m just happy to be back on the field.”
They said it...
Mental fortitude will be key in navigating the quick turnaround for Crew SC. So far, Berhalter appears to like what he has seen out of his group ahead of the match against Seattle.
“You have to get your bodies ready, but more importantly, get your minds ready. I think that’s what I’ve been most happy with is the focus of the guys and the intensity these last couple of days.”
►Crew SC Sporting Director and Head Coach Gregg Berhalter
Columbus Crew SC returns to MAPFRE Stadium on Wednesday, May 31 to face the defending MLS Cup Champion Seattle Sounders FC at 7:30 p.m. ET.
After the midweek clash with Seattle, Columbus will travel to face the Colorado Rapids on Saturday, June 3, with a 9 p.m. ET kickoff. A June 17 match in Atlanta against MLS-expansion side Atlanta United comes next with a 7 p.m. ET kickoff. Crew SC next plays the Montreal Impact at MAPFRE Stadium on Saturday, June 24 with a 7:30 p.m. ET kickoff. Enjoy half-off select beers (for supporters ages 21-and-over), Pepsi products, brats and pretzels through the 15th minute.*
*concession items subject to change
The Black & Gold welcome German Bundesliga-side and DFB Pokal-finalist Eintracht Frankfurt to MAPFRE Stadium for an international friendly on Monday, July 17. The match is set to kick off at 7:30 p.m.