The Columbus connection always was one of the key story lines whenever the Sounders faced off against the Crew. Much of that centered on Seattle coach Sigi Schmid, of course, who led the black and yellow to the 2008 MLS Cup before leaving Columbus abruptly, and somewhat controversially, to lead an expansion team in Seattle.

This week, however, the feeling was different.

Schmid had to pause for a good while just to think if anyone was still with the new-look Crew from his three-year tenure.

“The only guy might be the team administrator, so I might have to slide tackle him when he’s sitting on the bench for old times’ sake,” Schmid said with a laugh. “Or maybe buy him a beer.”

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Columbus’ sweeping changes, led by new ownership, a new coach, plenty of roster moves and the planned departure of the team president, have taken some of the edge off what had been a second-tier rivalry.

The Sounders being 6 years old, no longer the MLS young’uns, also has changed the dynamic.

Midfielder Brad Evans, who also came to Seattle after the 2008 championship in Columbus, took time this week to reflect on the prospect of playing his former team, but it just isn’t the same as years past.

“I’m so far removed from it,” Evans said. “Obviously it’s my first club and I’ll always remember my time there, winning a championship, but all those guys are gone. … The team is much different now and the team has gone a much different direction from when I was there. That’s definitely just in the past now.”

There are four members of the ’08 Crew team in Seattle — Schmid, Evans, defender Chad Marshall and assistant coach Ezra Hendrickson.


• Saturday marked Seattle’s fourth consecutive game against an East opponent, the first time the Sounders have started a season with four in a row against one conference. Due to the league’s unbalanced schedule, 24 of the Sounders’ remaining 30 games will be against the West, starting April 5 at rival Portland.

• The Sounders came in with a 4-1-3 advantage against Columbus, having outscored the Crew 15-7. Two of the four hat tricks in Seattle’s MLS history have come in the series (Blaise Nkufo in 2010 and Lamar Neagle in 2011).

Micheal Azira made his first start for the Sounders following his debut as a substitute last week in Montreal. Andy Rose was ruled out due to hamstring tightness, and Evans missed his second consecutive game with a calf injury.

Joshua Mayers: 206-464-3184