With the Seattle Sounders winless in four at home and Minnesota United hungry to move up towards the top four in the Western Conference, something would have to give between the two sides on Saturday afternoon at Lumen Field. The home side were missing Golden Boot leader Raul Ruidiaz and welcomed back several players from the injury list, while MNUFC would have to once again do without playmaker Emanuel Reynoso and leading goalscorer Robin Lod. Thanks once again to a long-distance strike from João Paulo in the 22nd minute, Seattle would emerge the victors in a 1-0 game and climb back up to the top spot out West while the Loons would have to wait for tomorrow’s game between LAFC and Real Salt Lake to see if they can hold onto sixth.
Much as they began to open the season in Seattle, MNUFC pressed high early, perhaps hoping to make freshly returned players like goalkeeper Stefan Frei — making his first start since May 12 — and defender Nouhou uncomfortable as they played it out of the back. At least initially, it seemed to work, and Minnesota’s thick midfield with Hassani Dotson, Osvaldo Alonso and Wil Trapp made it difficulty in the opening 10 minutes for the Sounders to make their way through the middle of the park.
Goalkeeper Tyler Miller was called upon early and often to stop the home side’s forays into the 18-yard box and in the 12th minute, he denied back to back shots to keep it level early. But 10 minutes later, midfielder João Paulo — who scored a wonder goal from beyond the box to open the season against MNUFC — found himself with an opportunity from just beyond the edge of the area, and the Brazilian lashed a low shot through Alonso’s legs and just inside of the left post to put Seattle on top 1-0.
The strike sent the visitors reeling for a bit, leaving the Loons unable to effectively get the ball out of their own end. Gradually, they began to look to play more directly over the top, and the result was an uptick on corner kicks, including one that resulted in a good header from Dotson that Frei was up to in the 33rd minute, followed shortly by an incisive run by midfielder Ethan Finlay along the backline that he cut back and topped with a clear shot on goal with his left that Frei fell on and smothered.
The Sounders continued to look for long balls and in the 41st minute, nearly found a second goal when midfielder Nicolas Benezet broke away from the pack after a long clearance from Frei and whipped in a shot that had Miller beat but ended up going wide right. The Loons headed into the locker room shortly after, in need of answers.
The second half began with Minnesota more confident in possession and continuing to trouble Seattle with corner kicks — racking up three almost back to back to back in the opening minutes — but they continued to struggle with connecting Trapp and Alonso as the holding midfielders to the attack through Dotson. While they missed playmaker Emanuel Reynoso against Houston, the Dynamo also let them get much farther into the final third than Seattle seemed to be willing to.
Past the 60-minute mark, the Loons began to even out and get more chances. Forward Adrien Hunou ripped a beauty of a shot that went high and off Frei’s fingertips but Seattle was nevertheless awarded a goal kick. Not long after, Hunou made way for forward Fanendo Adi, with Head Coach Adrian Heath perhaps hoping that a big body up front would provide a better target for long balls from the dual pivot.
While Adi changed the complexion of the game with some holdup play and a threatening header off a corner kick late, the Loons could ultimately not come up with a breakthrough goal to claw their way back into this one late. A free kick at the death drawn by sub Jacori Hayes in a dangerous spot went begging when Dotson drilled it into the wall and MNUFC would head back to Minnesota to regroup and prepare for a trip to Kansas City to face SKC on Wednesday.
SPORTING KANSAS CITY vs. MINNESOTA UNITED FC
Children's Mercy Park | Kansas City, Kansas
09.15.21 | MLS Week No. 23 | MLS Game No. 23
7:30 p.m. CT (Bally Sports North+, MNUFC Radio on SKOR North)