Crew aim to stay perfect against Sounders

Seattle, WA ( - The Columbus Crew will shoot for a third straight win to open the 2014 season when the club travels to CenturyLink Field to battle Seattle Sounders FC on Saturday.

Under first-year head coach and sporting director Gregg Berhalter, the Crew have been excellent in their first two matches of the season, thumping D.C. United, 3-0, at RFK Stadium on March 8, and sneaking past the new-look Philadelphia Union, 2-1, on March 22 in the home opener at Crew Stadium.

Last week against the Union, the two sides went toe-to-toe for the first 20- plus minutes before Columbus opened the scoring in the 24th minute when Bernardo Anor got free on a corner kick and easily nodded the ball past Union goalkeeper Zac MacMath.

Columbus doubled its lead in first-half stoppage time when Anor collected a loose ball in the final third and ripped a 35-yard wonder-strike into the side netting past a diving MacMath.

Philadelphia picked up its game in the second half and pulled one back through substitute Leo Fernandes in the 62nd minute, but the Crew's defense held out for an impressive victory.

"I told the guys, this win might've meant more to us than two weeks ago because the way we had to do it, the adversity we had to face, especially in the second half," Berhalter said. "I'm proud of the guys. They kept battling and hung in there.

"I meant more of the opponent. [Philadelphia] played great in the second half. When I look at some of the numbers, in terms of duels won and the pressure they put on us, I think it was very good. A lot of crosses in the box and it made it difficult for us. So, besides the first 10 minutes in the second half, the next 15 minutes after that was all Philly."

Seattle, meanwhile, is coming off a comfortable 2-0 victory over the struggling Montreal Impact at Olympic Stadium last Sunday.

Seattle had the better of the play from the outset and snagged the lead after just eight minutes with some good fortune on a set piece.

Gonzalo Pineda whipped a free kick into the penalty area where Lamar Neagle nodded it toward goal. The ball struck the crossbar and the back of Impact goalkeeper Troy Perkins before ending up in the net for an own goal.

Seattle doubled its lead in the 58th minute when Kenny Cooper tracked down a loose ball on the end line and chipped a cross into the box where Obafemi Martins was there to power it home.

"All offseason we've talked about wanting to become a more resilient team and that we wanted to display our character every time we played. I think today was one of those real character games," Sounders FC head coach Sigi Schmid said. "It was a longer than normal road trip, having the game postponed by a day, tactically the way we played, missing some key players and all the guys stepped up and did what they needed to do."

The sides met once last season, with the Sounders claiming a 1-0 win over Columbus at Crew Stadium.