If you missed the Seattle Sounders’ 2021 Major League Soccer season opener against Minnesota United, you’re going to want to do yourself a favor and watch the highlights at the top of this post. The Rave Green looked a little slow out of the gates in their new 3-5-2 formation before absolutely laying the hammer down in the second half en route to a 4-0 romp at Lumen Field.
Friday’s match featured a lot to remember, so here are the top 10 takeaways from Matchday 1.
For the first time in more than a year, the Sounders welcomed fans to Lumen Field. A crowd of a little more than 7,000 took in the victory, a promising and encouraging sign as things continue to slowly return to normal.
Best season-opening win in MLS club history
The Sounders’ four-goal margin of victory was the most lopsided win the club has had in a season opener in its 13 years in MLS. Seattle has thrice beaten its opponents by three goals, including the club’s inaugural MLS win in 2009, in which Fredy Montero scored the Sounders’ first MLS goal. Speaking of Montero…
New goal king
Things came full circle on Friday when Montero, who was reacquired this past offseason after nine years away from the Sounders, came on as a second-half substitute and made an instant impact. He earned a secondary assist on Raúl Ruidíaz’s second goal before scoring a beautiful volley himself to regain sole possession of first place in the club’s all-time MLS regular-season goalscoring chart. Clint Dempsey retired tied with Montero with 47 goals before the latter’s return to the score sheet this past week.
Alone at the top. 🙌 pic.twitter.com/cyAIsv9PZe— Seattle Sounders FC (@SoundersFC) April 17, 2021
Ruidíaz picks up where he left off
Montero is going to have some competition behind him in the scoring charts, as Ruidíaz continues to bag goals. The Peruvian Designated Player, who was named MLS Best XI last year after finishing tied for second in MLS in goals scored, recorded a brace to earn MLS Team of the Week.
João Paulo shows his class
João Paulo stole the headlines when he unleashed a Goal of the Year candidate for the Sounders’ opening tally against Minnesota. The Brazilian cushioned a clearance by juggling it once before firing a rocket past Dayne St. Clair from 25 yards out.
Atencio steps up
Sounders captain Nicolás Lodeiro missed the season opener with a left quad strain, so Head Coach Brian Schmetzer turned to 19-year-old Homegrown midfielder Josh Atencio to slot into the central midfield pivot alongside João Paulo. Atencio, who entered the 2021 season with just 11 total MLS minutes to his name, looked like a seasoned vet and was named to the bench of the MLS Team of the Week. He finished the match with 79 percent passing accuracy, was tied for the team lead in touches with 68 and led the team in tackles with six.
Roldan to the rescue
Minutes after João Paulo’s opener, Minnesota looked to have a sure-fire equalizer off a header from a free kick. The ball beat goalkeeper Stefan Frei and was goal-bound before Cristian Roldan sprinted to the goal line and swept it away, preserving the lead and providing a seminal moment in the match.
After choosing to employ a single forward in his first four and a half years at the helm, Schmetzer chose to use a 3-5-2 this year with Ruidíaz starting alongside Will Bruin. The formation led to an onslaught of goals, including Bruin setting up Ruidíaz’s first tally of the night, and also allows Schmetzer some flexibility in how he can attack with Ruidíaz, Bruin and Montero as front line options.
New position Nouhou
Schmetzer also opted to start left back Nouhou at a new position on Friday, slotting the Cameroonian into a left center back spot next to Xavier Arreaga and Shane O’Neill. Nouhou played like a natural, using his recovery speed to thwart several potential Loons opportunities. He led Seattle in recoveries with 10, clearances with seven and interceptions with four.
Frei clean sheet
Frei made four saves on Friday to start 2021 off perfectly. The veteran goalkeeper, who had six clean sheets in 22 matches last year, looked sharp all evening.