Depth and squad rotation could make all the difference Saturday night when the struggling Columbus Crew look to end a seven-match winless run as they host the Seattle Sounders.
The Crew’s goal drought reached 299 minutes following Wednesday’s 1-0 loss at Real Salt Lake. Columbus (5-12-2), which has just one win in its last 13 league matches (1-11-1), failed to put any of its seven shots on target – though Alex Crognale had a header glance the crossbar – as again playing without U.S. internationals Gyasi Zardes and Will Trapp as well as injured striker Federico Higuain again hamstrung the offense.
Defensively, a breakdown on a long ball played to RSL forward Sam Johnson led to the match’s only goal in the 38th minute, leaving Crew coach Caleb Porter continuing to search for answers in ending his side’s woes. Porter, though, was more incensed his team was not awarded a penalty – even after a VAR review – in the 13th minute when JJ Williams was brought down by Real keeper Nick Rimando.
“The official had a complete disaster,” Porter told the Columbus Post-Dispatch in reference to referee Victor Rivas, who did not award the penalty after having the VAR official suggest the review. “We can’t have officials who have officiated three games doing these types of games. It makes an absolute mockery of our game.”
Porter did rotate six of his players from the starting XI of Columbus’ 2-0 loss to Orlando City last weekend, and more changes could be in store as the Crew play their third match in seven days. Homegrown player and defender Aboubacar Keita made his MLS debut in Wednesday’s loss, continuing a promising year in which he helped the U.S. reach the quarterfinals at the Under-20 World Cup.
Seattle’s road woes continued with a 3-0 hiding administered by New York City FC on Wednesday night, conceding all three goals in the final 45 minutes. International commitments also are hindering the Sounders (8-5-5), who count Jordan Morris and Cristian Roldan among the U.S. contingent at the Gold Cup while Raul Ruidiaz has a chance at Copa America glory with Peru in the final against host Brazil.
The Sounders, who have just one win in their last six matches overall (1-4-1), are winless in their last eight outside Seattle (0-5-3) since a 4-2 victory at Chicago on March 16. They have shipped 10 goals with only four in reply in losing their last four road contests.
“We weren’t able to do what we tried to do at halftime, which was extend our possessions in their half of the field,” Sounders coach Brian Schmetzer said. “We created some stuff, but not near enough good quality chances to get a goal.”
Schmetzer made four changes to his side from last weekend and welcomed recently signed Designated Player Xavier Arreaga back to the fold. The centre back made two appearances for the Sounder before representing Ecuador in Copa America, where it was eliminated after group play.
Schmetzer also likely will give a second start in three matches to 16-year-old Danny Leyva since he was held out of Wednesday’s loss. Top playmaker Nicolas Lodeiro is expected to be at least available for selection following his return from Copa America as Uruguay was eliminated in penalties by Ruidiaz’s Peru side.
The teams played to a scoreless draw in Seattle last year, but the Crew have won the last two games played in Columbus.
(Nicolas Lodeiro photo courtesy Seattle Sounders FC official Twitter account)