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Match Preview | Flipping The Script In Seattle


Hello, my fellow fans of lake fowl! Lovely to see you here as we get close to the halfway point of the MLS season. As it has been since the beginning of the season, the Loons are sitting pretty enough near the top of the Western Conference. And, if Saturday’s 1-1 draw with FC Dallas showed the fans anything, it’s that the Loons have some young talent within their ranks, and they can hold down the fort while regular first-team players are away on international duty. Now, the boys turn their attention to the Pacific Northwest and those pesky Sounders, as your Loons head to Seattle for a Saturday night showdown at Lumen Field. It’s no secret that Seattle has been a thorn in the side of the Black and Blue throughout the club’s history, but when it comes to this weekend’s matchup, the timing may be something that can work in MNUFC’s favor. Seattle still has the talent to take a game over, no doubt, but they seem a bit out of sorts this season. And it should only help the Loons’ cause that a handful of players that were away on international duty last weekend are back in the mix for Saturday.

Seems like something we should break down more specifically…so, let’s do exactly that.

| Run of Form

Minnesota United FC (8-3-5)

Run of Form: D-W-L-D-W | Standings: 3rd in the West

Home draws are rarely the desired outcome for any club, but holding FC Dallas to one goal and getting another point in the standings seems like a positive result to me, given the circumstances. Coach Ramsay’s game plan held together without some of his usual starters in the lineup. It's also worth noting that the Allianz Field pitch had 4 native Minnesotans in the match at the same time (Kage Romanshyn Jr, Caden Clark, Devin Padelford, and Patrick Weah), which is a testament to the organization’s growth and the homegrown talent they have cultivated in our home state. The expectations for the Black and Blue go up a bit this week as the first team gets back some of their most important pieces in the starting XI puzzle, with Kervin Arriaga, Joseph Rosales, and Robin Lod returning from international duty and 2 out the 3 will be available for Saturday —Rosales being the exception, as he serves his card accumulation suspension. Micky Tapias will also be back in the mix after successfully securing his green card.

Seattle Sounders FC (4-7-6)

Run of Form: L-D-W-W-L | Standings: 10th in the West

The run of form may not look all that bad, but the season as a whole hasn’t been up to the usual Sounder-ish standards. Granted, Seattle is notorious for being late-season bloomers, a club that often clicks things into top gear in the summer months, gets hot as the season goes along, and manages to once again find themselves in the playoffs. But, this season may be an exception, as their scorers’ have struggled to find the net on a consistent basis. Last week’s 2-1 loss to last-place Sporting Kansas City can’t be sitting well, as SKC snapped a 10-game winless streak in the process. While they currently sit below the playoff line in the West at the 10 spot, Seattle has been able to maintain a solid defensive structure that has only conceded 21 goals on ~20.4 xGA, with both ranking near the top of the league in each of their respective categories.

| Keys to the Game

Stay Sleepless In Seattle

Tom Hanks’ rom-com references aside, we can’t sleep on the Sounders, regardless of their scorers’ struggling to find the net. Now, this isn’t to say I think the Loons have that mindset, because they’re well aware of the pain that Seattle has brought MNUFC in the past. Another intangible to that point is the fact that Lumen Field is always a tough place to play when you’re the visitor. I wholeheartedly believe that the Loons have shown that they fear no fanbase when it comes to playing in a hostile environment, but it’s the Sounders. And they’ve stolen ones like this from us before. In short, it's an all-gas, no-brake kind of Saturday.

Kerv Your Enthusiasm

As you’re likely aware by now, Kervin Arriaga has been pretty, pretty, pretty, pretty good this season. He’s been a revelation in Coach Ramsay’s 5-3-2, on both ends of the field. And, another superpower that is almost somewhat underappreciated…he’s a set-piece beast on corner kicks, with some of the best hops and headers on the squad. But, what will likely play the biggest role against Seattle on Saturday is his aggressive defense. Having him apply pressure to an already struggling Seattle attack can only boost the Loons’ chances of further frustrating scoring threats like Jordan Morris and Raúl Ruidiaz.

Stepping In? Stepping Up.

Even with the return of key players like Arriaga, Rosales, and Lod, the Loons will still need to account for those still representing their home countries. With Dayne away, Clint Irwin will once again be in net. The defensive third must keep Irwin’s doorstep clean, and with the news that Micky Tapias will be available Saturday, and Boxy just being Boxy, a bit more confidence can be instilled in clogging up the middle. While that part of the defensive efforts sounds set, the wingback spot is still in flux, with defender DJ Taylor still questionable with his injury and Rosales missing this one due to suspension. It will be interesting to see who takes the wing opposite of Padelford, who’s likely to occupy the left wingback positions. Another area that may be somewhat in question Saturday is who will occupy the striker spots. With Tani Oluwaseyi still repping the Canadian National Team and Teemu Pukki dealing with a small injury that makes him questionable for Saturday, it’s likely that we’ll see Bongokhule Hlongwane in an attacking role, but questions remain after that. Sang Bin’s flexibility may mean he fills in elsewhere, and at some point, I’d expect to see Jordan Adebayo-Smith get some minutes on the pitch at some point in the evening. And, against a tough Seattle defense, this group will need to apply pressure any chance they get.