COLUMBUS, Ohio – Plastered on the side of Crew Stadium is a giant poster of Clint Dempsey, a welcoming sight that greeted the Sounders to practice Friday.
The venue is serving double duty the next couple weeks, hosting the game between Columbus and Seattle today and then the U.S. men’s national team for a Sept. 10 World Cup qualifier against Mexico.
And while the Dempsey display was installed to hype the international game, Columbus is anticipating its best-attended league game of the season.
The idea of marketing an opponent might seem odd, but Sounders coach Sigi Schmid described it as good for MLS.
Schmid said, “So I think whatever sells tickets and gets people into the stands to see our game and to see our sport and our guys, I think once they come there’s a chance they’ll come back again, so it’s a good thing.”
Crew Stadium has been welcoming to the Sounders in other ways, too.
Seattle is 2-0-1 in the stadium, including a 1-0 win in 2009 that broke Columbus’ 24-game home unbeaten streak (an MLS record at the time) and a 4-0 win in 2010 that featured a hat trick from Blaise Nkufo, the first in franchise history.
Overall, the Sounders have outscored Columbus 6-1 in its own building. Couple that historical success with the hangover from Sunday’s emotional win against rival Portland, though, a nd the ingredients could be there for a Sounders letdown.
Said Schmid: “Sometimes it takes that first kick, or the first shock in a game, or something to happen that get juices flowing again, but hopefully our character is strong enough that it’s not going to take that, that we’ll be able to be prepared and ready to go. I think our team physically is recovered, and emotionally we need to make sure we’re ready.”
The Sounders will be without forward Obafemi Martins (ankle) and midfielder Shalrie Joseph (knee).