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Scouting Report: Forechecking the Minnesota Loons

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Wait just a minute. Didn’t we just do this?

MLS: Seattle Sounders FC at Minnesota United FC Brad Rempel-USA TODAY Sports

Who You’ll Watch

The Seattle Sounders wrap up their brief two-game home stand by welcoming Minnesota United FC to CenturyLink for the first time ever this Sunday. Seattle is coming off a 1-0 win over Sporting Kansas City while the Loons haven’t played in two weeks.

Minnesota is dead last in the Western Conference (22 points in 23 games played; 0.96 ppg) while the Sounders are second — tied for first, but held back by goal differential (37 points in 24 games played; 1.56 ppg).

The last time these two faced each other the Sounders won 4-0 and honestly, the scoreline could have been way different. Seattle missed quite a few chances as well as Minnesota. If not for Stefan Frei, the Loons could have found themselves on the score sheet - more than once, even.

Current Form

Minnesota: L-D-L-W-L with four goals scored and eight conceded

Top Scorer: Christian Ramirez; 11 goals

Top Assist Leader: Kevin Molino; seven assists

Seattle: W-W-D-W-W with 12 goals scored and three conceded

Top Scorer: Clint Dempsey; 10 goals

Top Assist Leader: Joevin Jones; 10 assists

Absences: Injury, international duty, suspension

Minnesota

The Loons have a rather larger injury list coming into this game. The have five players listed as out per MLS’ injury report. Bernardo Anor (left lower leg injury), Thomas de Villardi (left Achilles injury), Marc Burch (sports hernia surgery), Rasmus Schuller (left thigh injury) and Justin Davis (right foot injury) are out. Christian Ramirez (hamstring injury) and Sam Cronin appear to be day to day, though Cronin is almost certain to start.

Seattle

Unlike Minnesota, Seattle’s injury report is much smaller. Brad Evans (lower back pain) is the lone player listed as out.

What to Watch

There’s very little to add to our previous look at Minnesota just a couple weeks ago, as they haven’t played since last being destroyed (at least in scoreline) by Seattle. A quick recap: Adrian Heath runs them in a 4-2-3-1 that so far has been great at getting close to goal, but very poor at finishing. At the same time, their defense has been very bad, both via goal differential and organization.

With Ramirez still out, or likely no more than a late sub, what we’ll see will be very close to what we just saw. Of particular note, however, Heath said this week that newly-acquired Ethan Finlay will play some part in the match on Sunday. Whether that is by start or substitution is up to us to figure out. Finlay will take the RW position when he’s in and, using his speed, try to force Joevin Jones to come back and defend. He’s a talented player in dire need of a rebirth; his effort level and desire to make a mark will be high.

Put them on skates - the previous result highlighted just how bad the Loons are at staying connected and organized, and that much of this stems from their inability to rotate as the ball moves quickly. The Sounders likes to run the channels, and our southern friends don’t sit in this space well defensively. Quick interchanges and keeping the ball movement unpredictable will open acres of space, and undoubtedly be worth the increased loss of possession.

A couple of Seattle’s goals during the last match between the two sides also showed just how bad their one-on-one defending is. Loon players can be turned easily, and, with help being slow, these lead to significant space gained. It makes for an entertaining back-and-forth match, and Seattle’s superior defensive talent should be able to handle the added pressure.

Crash the crease - those organizational issues get worse the closer you get to goal, it seems. You need only watch highlights of their matches to see how many opportunities open up from their inability to close down, lack of help from outside, and late runners finding rebounds.

With Bobby Shuttleworth regularly under heavy duress, rebounds appear regularly. This is where late runs from Dempsey and Cristian Roldan should pay dividends. Will Bruin and Chad Marshall’s ability to flick on from free kicks and corners should lead to high-quality second-ball opportunities as well.

Of course, this requires the Sounders put their clear chances on frame. For all the goals scored last time, their finishing still left something to be desired. Bruin and Lodeiro both missed the frame entirely on easy chances, and Dempsey skied a one-on-one from near the penalty spot. Better accuracy should be expected this time around.

Don’t let them split the defense - channel runs by Molino and Danladi found clear opportunity at goal, and probably should have had further opportunities if not for wasteful passes. If there was any criticism to be had, it was that Seattle ceded space between the back line and midfield more easily than would be preferred.

Seattle also ceded possession a bit more than they’d like last match, and a little increased offensive pressure will help compress the Minnesota structure. It’s also likely Osvaldo Alonso starts, and the Roldanso beast should gobble up just a few more of those open players. Force play wide on the wings and Minnesota’s offense will struggle to generate anything, really.

This should be another fun one. If their performance last time was any kind of indicator, not even stashing 11 behind the ball should be able to save Minnesota.

Expected Lineups

Seattle: Frei; Jones, Marshall, Roman Torres, Kelvin Leerdam; Alonso, Roldan; Jordan Morris, Dempsey, Nicolas Lodeiro; Bruin

Minnesota: Shuttleworth; Ismaila Jome, Francisco Calvo, Michael Boxall, Jerome Thiesson; Cronin, Ibson; Sam Nicholson, Molino, Miguel Ibarra; Abu Danladi (shoutout to user markgoody for calling the Danladi-up-top move last time)

How to Watch

Date/Time: Sunday, August 20 7:00 PM

Venue: CenturyLink Field

Television: FOX Sports 1

Radio: KIRO 97.3 FM (English), El Rey 1360 AM (Spanish)