The Seattle Sounders’s last two clashes with Minnesota United have showcased all of the qualities of this team under Brian Schmetzer. The come-from-behind win in last season’s Western Conference Final showed the mental strength and character to never give up, while the 2021 season opening 4-0 win ushered in the Sounders new three at the back system that has served them so well to start the season.
To simply look beyond Minnesota would be foolish. In the Conference Final they played some excellent football to lead 2-0 before collapsing late. Even in the 4-0 defeat to start the season they generated some excellent first half chances before once again conceding freely in the second half. So, what should we expect this weekend?
United have added a few attacking pieces in Ramon Abila, Franco Fragapane and Adrien Hunou but have yet to click into gear offensively. Minnesota has only scored 12 times in their 12 matches this season, as it appears Adrian Heath is still trying to find the right attacking mix.
Fragapane should start on the left but his natural instinct to come inside will allow Chase Gasper to overlap and provide width. With no Alex Roldan, whoever plays in his position will have to deal with these overload situations. Further forward, Hunou should lead the line with his industry and endeavor, trying to create space for Emmanuel Reynoso to exploit. Reynoso was electric in the playoffs last year but has statistically had a slow start to this season, but it’s only a matter of time before he gets going.
The Sounders have had some issues against teams with natural wingers, but Minnesota wide players like to tuck inside and allow the full backs to advance. Will this generate transition opportunities for the Sounders wingbacks?
Next Man Up
Seattle is coming off a mini break with the hope of getting some key players fit again. The performance in the victory over Houston last time out showed that Brian Schmetzer’s next man up mentality is alive and well.
Kelyn Rowe was excellent in midfield that day, but we may see him shift to a wingback role to cover for Alex Roldan. His ability to play several roles at a high level was a key factor in his signing and we shouldn’t expect a drop in level with his new role. Danny Leyva is also coming off his best performance of the season and we could see two teenagers start in midfield if Josh Atencio is brought back into the starting group. It will be interesting to see if this frees up João Paulo to make a few more forward thinking runs we saw work so well against the Dynamo
João Paulo has been outstanding this season and should be a candidate for MVP. Even with the absence of Cristian Roldan against Houston, the Brazilian dictated the play. His ability to keep Reynoso under wraps and still provide an attacking pivot in midfield will be key to the Sounders keeping this incredible unbeaten run going.