MINvSEA Sider Cover Alex Roldan

Ahead of the start of the club’s massive Concacaf Champions League semifinals series with New York City FC, Seattle Sounders FC could hardly have asked for a better momentum-building result than the one they got at Allianz Field on Saturday against Minnesota United.

Fueled by a scorching golazo from midfielder João Paulo and a second-half own goal created by Jordan Morris, Seattle took its first road victory of the club’s 2022 campaign over a talented Minnesota side expected to contend in the Western Conference.

Now, the focus turns back to CCL, where Seattle will kick off its semifinals series against defending MLS Cup champion NYCFC on Wednesday (7:00 p.m. PT | TICKETS) at Lumen Field.

“It is a good way to build into Wednesday,” Schmetzer said after Saturday's match. “The team is finding a little bit of momentum. I think the narrative was out there, the negative narrative was that league play wasn’t great and we weren’t playing as well as we were in Champions League games. I think we can probably erase that narrative. I think our league performance tonight in the first 45 minutes was very, very good. 

“Then we showed resilience because, look, MLS is a very hard league,” he added. “It’s hard to grind out wins, especially away from home. The team showed resilience, so that’s a positive. The team played very well that first 45 minutes, so we’ll try and use both of those tools that we have in the two-legged series against NYCFC, which, it’s an MLS team. It’s going to be a very hard and challenging series.”

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Saturday’s match also featured two significant returns in Designated Players Nicolás Lodeiro and Raúl Ruidíaz, who had each been sidelined with injuries early in the season.

Lodeiro started and played the whole first half, assisting on João Paulo’s highlight-reel opener, while Ruidíaz came in after halftime and helped close out the match. Schmetzer said “the reins are off” in terms of each of his star attacker’s availability going forward.

“Nico was a big part of why we won in the first half and Raúl was a very, very big reason why we won the game in the second half,” Schmetzer said. “They are tremendous players, tremendous talents, leaders in the team.”

The upcoming series against NYCFC represents two of the biggest matches of the season, with a spot in the CCL final on the line.

Ahead of Wednesday’s opener, João Paulo said Saturday’s positive result provides a strong foundation to build on for what promises to be a hard-fought series.

“I do believe this was our best group performance collectively,” João Paulo said through a translator. “Like that match at home versus [Club] León, we know that coming here to Minnesota, it’s not easy to have such a good match with such a level of control of possession. 

"We know their strength at home, so managing a good result definitely builds confidence for us for this next match, which is a big [match] in our season.”

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SUMMER WITH THE CHAMPS

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