- There’s facing your former club, and then there’s what Osvaldo Alonso’s about to do. Alonso became a mainstay almost immediately upon joining the Seattle Sounders, appearing in 28 of 29 games between the regular season and playoffs in 2009, including playing 90 minutes in the Final of the U.S. Open Cup, which Seattle won. During Alonso’s tenure as captain there, the Sounders won the Supporters’ Shield (2014), MLS Cup (2016) and three more U.S. Open Cups (2010, 2011, 2014). Upon his return to the then-CenturyLink Field in 2019, his former team honored him in a ceremony before the game. His main priority in the game will be nothing less than shutting down his former teammate and the Sounders’ most dangerous weapon, Nicolas Lodeiro. In short, you couldn’t script a better high stakes game than a Western Conference Final between Seattle and MNUFC for Alonso.
- Between Seattle’s Round of 16 exit from the MLS Is Back Tournament and the travel restrictions forced by COVID-19, the Loons and the Sounders have yet to face each other this season. History, unfortunately, does not favor MNUFC. In their MLS history, Minnesota has conceded 13 goals while only scoring four times, and their lone positive result was a 1-1 draw at Allianz Field in May of 2019. In their last game against each other on Decision Day of 2019, the Loons lost 1-0 in Seattle, but it goes without saying that that was a very different team. Angelo Rodriguez started up top and the currently red-hot Kevin Molino and Robin Lod came off the bench late. As a result, the two teams are about as unfamiliar with each other as SKC and MNUFC were familiar. The scouting departments are sure to have their hands full as they pore over tape in the coming days.
- Since Luis Amarilla’s promising 2020 was cut short by injury, Minnesota have cast about for a solution at forward. Mason Toye, Aaron Schoenfeld and Kei Kamara have all gotten their shot at cementing their place in the starting XI — with varying degrees of success — but down the stretch, Head Coach Adrian Heath turned to Robin Lod to play a false 9 role and it’s safe to say he won’t be going away from it any time soon. Lod has played the position before for the Finnish national team and has rounded into one of the most assured finishers on the team this season, finishing the season second on the team with seven goals.
- The chemistry among the front four over the last several games has been a wonder to behold. In three consecutive 3-0 wins from Decision Day through the playoffs, Emanuel Reynoso has had a hand in every one of the nine goals scored, with Kevin Molino contributing to seven and Lod to four. And while he hasn’t gotten on the score sheet, don’t discount Ethan Finlay’s contributions as a tireless runner and willing disruptor down the right wing. On Monday night, it will be strength against strength as two of the league’s hottest attacking quartets collide.
- Aside from Alonso, Monday’s game will also be a reunion for the Loons and former MNUFC midfielder Miguel Ibarra. Ibarra was one of the team’s best and most beloved players during their time in the NASL and was a mainstay through the Loons’ first few years in MLS. Called upon to play every position across the midfield and even as a wingback and fullback occasionally, Ibarra was a perpetual motion machine for the Loons and never failed to make time to meet and connect with fans and supporters. After starting the first few games for Seattle, he has mostly played in a bench role this season.
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