Minnesota United came into the season opener against Seattle Sounders FC brimming with hope not just for their first win over the Sounders in their eighth try, but for a hot start to a season in which they have real title aspirations. In the first half, the Loons looked the part, smothering the home side and popping up all over the field with a surplus of energy. In the second half, though, Seattle showed why they’ve been to four of the last five MLS Cup Finals as they settled down and picked the visitors apart to the tune of four second-half goals and a resounding 4-0 win.
Minnesota began the game putting the screws to Seattle on defense in the kind of comprehensive way that showed at times last year down the stretch of the season. Within the first 20 seconds, that pressure earned the visitors their first corner kick and that set the tone for the first half. The press kept the home side from building up any kind of coherent attack, but for their part, MNUFC struggled to create clear-cut chances.
In the sixth minute, Seattle sprang the counterattack after Minnesota failed to make good on a midfield clearance and midfielder Cristian Roldan got at least half a look at goal but ended up sending it over the endline for a Minnesota goal kick.
Much as last season, the visitors’ attack revolved around getting the ball to Emanuel Reynoso and letting him pick out runners. Players like Romain Metanire got in on the playmaking action as well, but his progressive pass to Ethan Finlay on the edge of the box in the eighth minute was whistled offside. Both Finlay and Metanire showed no rust in their work ethic as the midfielder defended hard from the front and the fullback attacked from the back with his trademark long and early crosses.
In the 27th minute, midfielder Wil Trapp was called for a handball near the right edge of the box as he attempted to contain Cristian Roldan. With Nico Lodeiro out, Raul Ruidiaz stepped to the spot to take the penalty but when he went left, so did Dayne St. Clair and the keeper blocked the ball and made him a perfect 3-for-3 in penalty saves for his career.
While the Loons had opportunities on goal from Finlay and Robin Lod, both went awry and the teams headed into the locker room knotted at 0-0. MNUFC had dominated the possession and energy but had not been able to take advantage.
The Sounders came out of the halftime break with renewed energy and focus and got right to business breaking the Loons’ press and wearing away their will. In the 49th minute, a short headed clearance from Trapp dropped at the feet of midfielder Joao Paulo. Paulo tapped the ball up off his foot and ripped a volley from well outside the box that beat St. Clair and opened the scoring.
It looked for a moment like the visitors were going to get the goal right back as shortly off the reset, Reynoso sent a curling ball into the box that found defender Brent Kallman’s head. The ball had beaten Frei but Cristian Roldan came flying in and cleared the ball off the goal line.
Following that frustration, the chemistry and drive the Loons had displayed in the first half slowly began to seep away and the Sounders began to get more and more opportunities as the night wore on. In the 65th minute, Head Coach Adrian Heath brought in recent signing Ramon Abila to change the look, but in the 70th minute, forward Will Bruin took advantage of Kallman by turning him on the edge of the box and pushing towards goal. It opened up a lane for Raul Ruidiaz and the Peruvian finished smoothly to double the lead at 2-0. Moments later, another defensive breakdown would lead to another wide open look for Ruidiaz to make it 3-0.
Seattle weren’t quite done though. In the 85th minute, Metanire went down after having pushed deep down the right wing just before Seattle broke out on the other side of the pitch. The opening allowed Fredy Montero — Seattle’s all-time leading scorer who returned to the team this season — to drift into space and smash a clinical ball into the net to make the final score 4-0.
The Loons will now regroup and head back to Minnesota to prepare for the home opener against Real Salt Lake next week.
ADRIAN HEATH ON SEATTLE OUTSCORING MNUFC 12-2 IN THE LAST 29 MINUTES IN GAMES IN THIS SERIES IN THE MLS AND WHY IT HAS BEEN THIS WAY SO CONSISTENTLY
“Well, I think you look at the games. The games have been really right. The first one we were 2-nil up. They’ve thrown men forward, and they’ve got quality. I said before the game, I’m not just saying this now, they’ll be thereabouts again. They’ve got good players. They’re well coached. They’re well organized. And they have people who can score if you give them opportunities. [Raul] Ruidiaz has done it all of his career. Fredy Montero has got a goal in him. When we were chasing the game like we were, trying to get back in it, because at 2-nil you’re still in the game. But then obviously, you leave yourself exposed a little bit and it goes to three and four. You know, they had another chance right on. But when I look over the 90 minutes I don’t think there’s been a lot between the two teams. I really don’t.”
WIL TRAPP ON HIS GUT REACTION TO THE GAME AND WHAT THEY LEARNED
“I think it’s not over committing with the high press at times. We got a little aggressive, I think, and stretched with numbers and balls coming through the middle of the field and they made good, late runs. I mean, think about how many times Cristian Roldan ran out of midfield and overloaded our center backs and when they had an extra number in the midfield. It makes it difficult and they were smart about their tactics in that regard, but ultimately I think if we’re a little more compact, immediately lose the ball and getting into a good shape, we can counteract a lot of it.”
BELL BANK MAN OF THE MATCH
- 49' | After a short clearance from Trapp, Joao Paulo taps the ball up and rips a shot that beats St. Clair. 1-0
- 70' | Will Bruin turns Brent Kallman and drops him, opening up a wide lane to the goal. He finds Ruidiaz in the middle and the Peruvian finishes it smoothly. 2-0
- 74' | Defensive breakdown leads to another wide open shot for Ruidiaz.
- 85' | Romain Metanire went down deep in Seattle's half on the right side, opening up the back for Freddy Montero to float centrally and drive a volley into the back of the net.
MINNESOTA UNITED FC vs. REAL SALT LAKE
Allianz Field | Saint Paul, Minnesota
04.24.2021 | MLS Week No. 2 | MLS Game No. 2
7:00 p.m. CT (Bally Sports North, The CW Twin Cities, MNUFC Radio on SKOR North)
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