The Seattle Sounders defeated Minnesota United 4-0 on Friday night in the 2021 Major League Soccer opener at Lumen Field. João Paulo scored a screamer of a match-winner in the 49th minute before Will Bruin set up Raúl Ruidíaz for a one-time finish to double the lead in the 70th minute. Ruidíaz earned a brace just three minutes later after Cristian Roldan put a pass on a platter for the Peruvian, who coolly slotted home from a few yards out. Fredy Montero, who returned to Seattle for the first time in nine years, subbed on in the 71st minute, two minutes before his through ball to Roldan set up Ruidíaz’s second tally.
Montero then found a goal of his own in the 86th minute on a beautiful volley off a feed from Alex Roldan.
Ruidíaz had the best opportunity of the first half when he missed a penalty kick in the 29th minute. Ruidíaz stepped up for usual PK taker Nicolás Lodeiro, who missed out on Friday with a left quad strain. Robin Lod for Minnesota hit the post in the 36th minute for the Loons’ best chance of the match.
The Sounders will head to Los Angeles next Saturday for a huge clash with LAFC (3 p.m. PT; ESPN).
João Paulo magic
What. A. Hit. João Paulo unleashed an MLS Goal of the Year candidate with an absolute rocket of a volley to give the Sounders the lead in the second half. The Brazilian delicately cushioned an attempted clearance with his right foot, popping it up to himself before firing a stunner past Dayne St. Clair. Just enjoy:
Head Coach Brian Schmetzer employed his new 3-5-2 formation, opting for three center backs, two wingbacks, three central midfielders and a two-formation set that featured Ruidíaz and Bruin. One of the stars on the evening was Nouhou, who was playing as a converted left center back, and covered a ton of ground defensively, regularly thwarting Minnesota United attacks.
Atencio’s first start
In the absence of Lodeiro, who missed Friday night with a left quad strain, 19-year-old Homegrown central midfielder Josh Atencio earned his first MLS start. He played just 11 minutes last season and had a major task defensively trying to help slow down the Loons’ dynamic No. 10 Emanuel Reynoso, something Atencio looked very comfortable in doing. His strong full debut should bode well for the Sounders as the season progresses.