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Seattle Sounders FC vs. Minnesota United FC | 2019 MLS Game Preview

SEATTLE SOUNDERS FC vs. MINNESOTA UNITED FC
CenturyLink Field | Seattle, Washington
10.06.2019 | MLS Week No. 31 | MLS Game No. 34
3:00 p.m. CT (FOX Sports North, FOX Sports GO, MNUFC Radio on SKOR North)

2019 Records:
SEA: 15-10-8 (10-2-4 at home)
MIN: 15-10-8 (5-9-2 on the road)

After taking a point at Allianz Field in a 1-1 draw against a top-quality LAFC side, Minnesota United travels to CenturyLink Field for an important Decision Day showdown against the Seattle Sounders. If the Loons take three points on Sunday afternoon, they will clinch the second seed in the Western Conference heading into the 2019 MLS Playoffs Presented by Cub, Taylor Communications and Minnesota Lottery. With Sounders FC and MNUFC level on points and Real Salt Lake and LA Galaxy fighting to the end the battle for home field advantage, Sunday’s result between Minnesota and Seattle will dictate how the top half of the Western Conference finishes. Although the focal point of this year’s Decision Day game will mostly be on the riveting Western Conference playoff race, Seattle Sounders fans will witness the return of Osvaldo Alonso, who spent 10 years with their club. Expect a rousing reception for Alonso as he faces off against his old club in a crucial afternoon of soccer between the two sides that will ultimately decide the fate of seven Western Conference teams as the 2019 MLS Playoffs begins.

As with all 12 MLS games on Sunday, kickoff is scheduled for 3:00 p.m. CT, with pregame coverage beginning at 2:30 p.m. CT live on FOX Sports North, streaming on FOX Sports GO and on MNUFC Radio on SKOR North.

Coming off a 3-1 victory over the Houston Dynamo that saw LAFC hoist this year’s Supporters’ Shield, the Black-and-Gold played at Allianz Field with a certain swagger and confidence ahead of the upcoming playoffs. In a game where each half was the opposite of the other, a record-tying goal from Carlos Vela in the 70th minute was canceled out just five minutes later when Michael Boxall steered a header past LAFC’s goalkeeper Pablo Sisniega to equalize for the Loons. While Los Angeles Football Club dominated much of the play during the first half and looked sharp on the ball, the second half presented MNUFC with three wonderful chances, all that fell at the feet of forward Angelo Rodriguez. The Colombian forward was stifled by Sisniega each time and was unable to capitalize on his opportunities to put the game out of reach for LAFC.

“I think it was the proverbial game of two halves,” said Head Coach Adrian Heath. “I thought they were the dominant team in the first half. I thought they moved the ball really well. I thought their movement off the ball and their ball circulation was as good as you’ll see and we hung in there with a really good defensive shape and a lot of discipline. But the second half I thought we were the more aggressive team. I thought we conceivably could’ve had three or four in the second half, Angelo [Rodriguez] had three really good chances.”

Although the Loons were a constant threat when they sent dangerous balls that found the run of Rodriguez in behind the LAFC defense, the attacking trio of Carlos Vela, Diego Rossi and Brian Rodriguez looked just as menacing going forward for the Black-and-Gold. With Boxall’s game-tying goal coming just minutes after Brian Rodriguez was denied by the MNUFC cross bar in the 74th minute, the visitors may have felt hard done by if they were to have dropped all three points. While each side settled for a 1-1 draw after a high-quality, fast-paced 90-minute game, the frustration of drawing with the league-leaders can serve as an indicator of just how far the Loons have come in their time in MLS.

“When you go a goal behind, you’re thinking, ‘Can we get back in it?’ said Heath. “In the end, when you look at all of the chances, you’re thinking [that] we may have even pinched the game. Certainly, on the clear-cut chances, they were the ones who were hanging on a bit at the end. You look where they are [with] the Supporters’ Shield. They’ve got a chance of equaling the record – or breaking the record, next week and [they have the] top goal scorer in the league. It shows you how far we’ve come when we’re taking on a team like LAFC and we’re a little bit disappointed that we didn’t take all three points.”

“Some people take this point as a great point, [but] I don’t because we should have won the game but it is what it is,” added MNUFC captain Osvaldo Alonso. “From the first game, to now, we have never got down below the red playoff line. We keep playing our game whether we play a bad good or a good game. Now we have to focus on Seattle because it’s our next game and we have to win there to finish second now. We have to win there.”

While both sides are level on 53 points and have identical 15-10-8 records, the Loons sit just above Seattle because of a +10 goal differential, eight better than Sounders FC’s +2 goal differential. In a complete contrast to the +15 goal differential that Seattle posted at the end of last year, Sounders FC has scored one more goal than it did at the same time last season but in turn, has conceded 49 goals this year – 12 more than in all of 2018. While Seattle has looked vulnerable at the back, Adrian Heath was quick to acknowledge the attacking threat that Seattle possess going forward.

“They’ve got good players,” said Heath. “Jordan Morris is always a threat. Raúl Ruidíaz is a goal scorer. Nicolás Lodeiro has got craft and imagination. They’ve got quality players in nearly all the positions. We know it’s not going to be easy, it never is there especially this week when it’s probably going to be nearly a full house. They’re on about opening the upper deck, I think. And the return of the prodigal son, Osvaldo Alonso, will obviously bring some atmosphere to the stadium as well. It’s one of them games that you should be looking forward to if you’re a player.”

The Cuban midfielder returns to CenturyLink Field for the first time since departing Sounders FC and joining Minnesota United this summer. Alonso featured in 278 MLS games for Seattle and hoisted the MLS Cup in 2016 as well as the U.S. Open Cup four times (2009, 2010, 2011 and 2014). Since joining the Loons, Alonso has quickly made a lasting impact on a team that has dramatically improved from its first two seasons in MLS. He not only scored the first MNUFC goal at Allianz Field but he recently netted the tying goal in Minnesota’s thrilling playoff-clinching victory over Sporting KC last Wednesday. While Sunday will present a variety of emotions for Alonso, the veteran midfielder is more than ready to step up to the challenge.

“I think the most important thing is that he does what he does best which is going out and just playing – don’t get caught up in the emotion of the day,” said Heath. “He’s going to get an incredible reception and quite rightly so for what he’s done over the years there. Knowing Ozzie, the way he is, he’s going to want nothing more than to go there and win and make sure that we finish above them in the playoff standings. It’s going to be an emotional day for him but I just want him to go out and do what he does best which is just play football.”

“It’s going to be special because of 10 years playing there, coming back for]my first time and playing against my former team but I have to do my job here with the team,” remarked Alonso. “I have to focus because we have to go there [and] find a way to get three points because three points means second place. Second place means we host the first game here in the playoffs.”

Minnesota United’s next game will be in the First Round of the Audi 2019 MLS Cup Playoffs on either October 19 or 20. The Loons will have to wait until all Western Conference games have gone final on Decision Day to find out who they will face as well as where the game will be played. For more information on how Minnesota’s potential playoff outlook could play out on Sunday, click here: https://utd.mn/2oEJITb.

INJURY REPORT

Minnesota United FC

  • None

Seattle Sounders FC

  • OUT: F – Will Bruin (ACL injury)
  • QUESTIONABLE: D – Jonathan Campbell (right calf injury)
  • QUESTIONABLE: M – Nicolas Lodeiro (lower back injury)

FIRST TOUCHES

  • This will be Osvaldo Alonso’s first game in Seattle since leaving
    Sounders FC prior to this season. He played 10 seasons with Seattle.
  • Seattle has made the MLS Cup Playoffs every season since it joined MLS in 2009. It now holds the record of 11 consecutive playoff appearances after qualifying this season.
  • The teams battled to a 1-1 draw at Allianz Field back in May of this year.
  • Minnesota has not won against Seattle in MLS. There are only two other teams the Loons have not yet defeated in league play: LA Galaxy and the Philadelphia Union.
  • MNUFC, Seattle, LA Galaxy and Real Salt Lake all are still in the running for the three hosting spots in Round One of the MLS Cup Playoffs.
  • Minnesota can secure a home game in Round One with a win or draw against Seattle. In the event of a loss, it would need the Galaxy or RSL to lose or draw their matchups to still host in Round One.
  • Michael Boxall scored his second goal of the season on Sunday to claim a 1-1 draw with LAFC.
  • Jan Gregus provided the assist on a free kick. He has been credited with 12 assists on the season.
  • The goal was the Loons’ seventh on a set piece this season.
  • Vito Mannone has tied the club regular season appearance record of 33 after Sunday. He holds the record across all competitions with 38 this season.
  • Mannone also set a new single-season minutes record of 2,970, passing Jerome Thiesson’s mark of 2,955 from 2017.
  • Mannone has the fourth-best save percentage in MLS, stopping 73.7% of shots. That rate gives Minnesota the second-best team percentage, only behind D.C. United’s 74.6%.
  • The Loons are the third-least fouled team in the league, suffering 328 fouls this season.
  • Both teams have had four ejections this season.
  • Seattle will be without Nouhou Tolo and Xavier Arreaga, who are serving one-game suspensions. Tolo reached the yellow card accumulation limit in the final game before receiving a Good Behavior Incentive reduction. Arreaga was given two cautions last game against San Jose.
  • Minnesota has not won a Decision Day game since joining MLS.
  • MNUFC has scored three or more goals in nine games this year, tied for the second-most in the league
  • Osvaldo Alonso played for Sounders FC for 10 seasons. He made 277 regular season appearances and captained the team to win four U.S. Open Cups, the 2014 Supporters’ Shield and the 2016 MLS Cup.
  • Darwin Quintero and Raul Ruidiaz both joined MLS last season from Mexico’s first division, Liga MX. Peru international Ruidiaz signed as a Designated Player for Sounders FC from Morelia in June, while Quintero joined the Loons at the end of March as a DP from Club América.
  • MNUFC Assistant Coach Mark Watson played for Seattle during its USL days, donning the Sounders’ green in 1997.Saad Abdul-Salaam and Ike Opara played together on Sporting Kansas City from 2015 to 2017. 
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