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 actually serving double duty the next couple weeks, hosting a game between Columbus and Seattle at 4:30 p.m. Saturday 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, the Crew has also promoted the arrival of the USMNT captain to great effect. Columbus is anticipating its best-attended MLS game of the season. Fewer than 1,000 tickets remain.
The idea of marketing an opponent might seem odd, but Sounders coach Sigi Schmid described it as good for the league, adding that it was hardly unique to the treatment of stars like Carlos Valderrama, Jorge Campos and Roberto Donadoni in the early MLS years. David Beckham and Robbie Keane are more recent examples.
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“Clint is part of that group, along with Landon Donovan and some others,” 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, and the ingredients could be in line for a 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 traveled to Columbus without Obafemi Martins (ankle) and Shalrie Joseph (knee).
Martins had an MRI this week that revealed there was no damage beyond the sprain, and the Sounders hope he will be ready Wednesday against Chivas USA. Joseph sprained his right medial collateral ligament Sunday against Portland, and Schmid said he didn’t know a timeline for the midfielder’s return.
• Crew star Federico Higuain, who has nine goals and six assists, will be suspended Saturday after receiving a red card late in last week’s 4-0 loss to Real Salt Lake.
Joshua Mayers: 206-464-3184 or firstname.lastname@example.org. On Twitter @joshuamayers