Minnesota United came into Sunday afternoon’s scrap with the Seattle Sounders looking to take a little revenge for a pair of defeats, namely their 4-0 season opening loss and their 3-2 loss in the Western Conference Final last season, both in Seattle. In fact, the Loons had never beaten the Sounders in MLS, and Seattle came into the game with a 13-game unbeaten streak that has them sitting atop the Supporters Shield race. The Loons didn’t let any of that get to them, coming out on the front foot and keeping the Sounders uncomfortable until sub Niko Hansen’s cross in the 81st minute found Robin Lod for the tap in, giving MNUFC a massive home win.
From the opening whistle, it was clear that the Loons were intent on not letting the Sounders get comfortable. The front four of forward Adrien Hunou and midfielders Franco Fragapane, Emanuel Reynoso and Robin Lod executed a high press while the double pivot behind them — Wil Trapp and Hassani Dotson returning as a tandem after Osvaldo Alonso and Jan Gregus started against Colorado — stepped swiftly to close down whatever passes Seattle could get out of the back.
In possession, MNUFC played with energy and aggression, controlling the tempo without pushing too hard to get back and defend well when called upon. In this capacity, DJ Taylor — getting his second MLS start in place of the still-absent Romain Metanire — looked worlds more comfortable at the right back position. He cut off several early chances down the left to Seattle’s Brad Smith and his crosses from the right wing earned the team several corner kicks over the course of the game.
For their part, Seattle — who were missing several players — had trouble getting their key players involved. The aforementioned Smith struggled to push the defense back when he got forward and Raul Ruidiaz, who is tied with the Galaxy’s Javier Hernandez for the lead in the Golden Boot race with 10 goals, struggled to get more than looks from distance, generating only 0.08 expected goals on his three shots.
The first half was also marked by some chippiness as the Sounders received two yellow cards in short order (for Danny Leyva and Yeimar Gomez Andrade) in the 13th and 19th minutes. The physicality carried over to the second half, including a moment when Abdoulaye Cissoko and Head Coach Adrian Heath got into a war of word on the sidelines briefly.
As the first half drew to a close, goalkeeper Tyler Miller was called upon on two occasions to spear aside attempts by first Jimmy Medranda and then Ruidiaz. While the teams would head into the tunnel deadlocked, there was little doubt that Minnesota had gotten the better of the visitors to that point, save for putting a shot on frame.
The Sounders came out of the break looking rejuvenated and the teams seemed to play on more even footing as the game got back underway. Both the home side and the visitors got opportunities in the first 15 minutes of the second half, with each defense stepping up to keep openings from turning into goals. After Heath and Cissoko had their tete-a-tete, the game opened up considerably, perhaps as fatigue began to lead to more chances for players to get up and down the pitch.
In the 74th minute, Heath made what would end up being a critical move, bringing off Hunou for winger Niko Hansen. Hansen stepped into the role of right wing, moving Lod into the false 9 role up top that he played to much acclaim last season.
Six minutes after coming on, a fortuitous bounce off a clearance sent the ball towards the Seattle goal and directly into the path of Lod. The Finn went down in the box, appearing to have been pulled down from behind by a Seattle defender, but no whistle came. No matter, though, as moments later, Hansen picked up a precise through ball on the right wing and sent in a cross that deflected off a defender’s foot and bounced up for a wide open Lod. Lod tapped the ball in with his left foot to give the Loons a 1-0 lead with less than 10 minutes to play.
Heath brought on Osvaldo Alonso for Reynoso in order to slow the game down and Minnesota United played enough defense down the stretch to keep the Sounders from finding their way into the game late. When the final whistle sounded, MNUFC had toppled the Western Conference leaders and taken all three points, moving them into sixth place and giving Heath his 50th regular season win with the club.
MINNESOTA UNITED FC vs. PORTLAND TIMBERS
Allianz Field | Saint Paul, Minnesota
07.24.21 | MLS Week No. 14 | MLS Game No. 14
7:00 p.m. CT (The CW Twin Cities, Bally Sports North, MNUFC Radio on SKOR North)