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Sounders vs. Minnesota United recap: Clint Dempsey wins it on last-minute penalty

Sounders nearly fell into Minnesota’s trap.

Max Aquino / Sounder at Heart

SEATTLE — They made it a bit more interesting than they probably needed to, but the Seattle Sounders ultimately found a way to get full points and move into first place in the Western Conference.

Clint Dempsey’s 94th minute penalty gave the Sounders a 2-1 win over Minnesota United on Sunday, allowing them to overcome an early 1-0 deficit and avoid falling into what would have been a very frustrating trap.

Just over two weeks from the last (and first ever) meeting between the Sounders and Minnesota United, the two sides did it again at CenturyLink Field. The visitors hoped to purge the demons of their 4-0 home loss in that match, while the Sounders sought another three points that could send them back to the top of the Western Conference.

The return of Osvaldo Alonso to central midfield meant that Cristian Roldan moved to an outside attacking midfield role that pushed Jordan Morris up to striker and Will Bruin to the bench. Victor Rodriguez also started on the bench, and the only injury absence for Seattle was Brad Evans, who is still suffering from back pain and officially listed as out.

The Sounders dominated possession and created chances from the first minute—and they didn’t slow down. A foul near Minnesota’s box gave the Loons a decent free kick chance that the Sounders kept out—barely. Seattle kept Minnesota pinned in their half constantly, but still found a multitude of space in which to create.

Despite possessing the ball and looking constantly dangerous, the Sounders were not the first team on the scoresheet. Some very suspect defending by Seattle gave Ethan Finlay a 1v1 with Stefan Frei, and the Minnesota midfielder dispatched the ball with ease to make it 1-0 for the visitors in the 21st minute. That ended the Sounders’ franchise record shutout streak at 421 minutes. The Loons almost doubled the score immediately afterwards, when Seattle’s defense lapsed again and allowed Abu Danladi a chance to fire from close range, but his shot barely fizzed past the post and out for a goal kick.

Seattle had a golden opportunity to equalize minutes later, when the referee allowed Nicolas Lodeiro to take a quick free kick that put Kelvin Leerdam through on the Minnesota goal, but the Sounders still couldn’t find a way to put it into the net. That finally changed for them in the 31st minute, when Chad Marshall headed in a Lodeiro free kick to make it 1-1.

The second half started a bit less brightly for the Sounders, but both teams managed some quality chances in the first few minutes. A miscommunication by the Sounders defense almost allowed another easy Minnesota goal; Marshall wasn’t aware of a backwards pass by Svensson, allowing Danladi to jump onto the loose ball and face off with Frei again. The Sounders goalkeeper saved his teammates’ blushes by throwing his body at Danladi’s feet and dispossessing the Minnesota forward.

Seattle found it easy to get the ball into wide and dangerous areas in the final third, but their lack of a final ball continued to stop them from breaking down Minnesota’s defense. Roldan had a curving shot from the top of the box saved, while Morris danced into the penalty area on multiple occasions. In an effort to finally get that finishing touch up front, Schmetzer substituted Will Bruin on for Gustav Svensson. He had an immediate effect on the match, forcing goalkeeper Bobby Shuttleworth into a mistake that led to a promising chance for Clint Dempsey that nearly squeaked into the net.

The Sounders had probably their most promising chance of the half around the 73rd minute when Morris had an open header on a cross from Roman Torres, but chose to head it across goal for a teammate rather than go for goal himself. Lodeiro hopped on the rebound from the top of the box, but his shot went well wide of the goal.

In yet another effort to get a goal, the Sounders brought on Nouhou for Morris, pushing Joevin Jones up to the left wing. They continued their possession in the final third, getting corner after corner and finding dangerous space in the box, but still couldn’t find the go-ahead goal. Torres nearly had a spectacular effort from a bicycle kick near the penalty spot, but it flew wide. Nouhou fired in a great cross into the middle of the box at the start of injury time, but Dempsey’s leaping header sent the ball over the bar.

The Sounders’ constant knocking on the door of Minnesota’s goal finally paid off deep into injury time, when the ball bounced around in the penalty box, finally smacking the hand of a defender off a Dempsey shot. Deuce stepped up to take the penalty, putting it past Shuttleworth on the last kick of the match to make it a dramatic 2-1 win for Seattle.

The goal allowed the Sounders to win their sixth match in seven games and push their unbeaten streak to nine. The Sounders will now head to Vancouver for a match on Wednesday before returning home for a game against the Portland Timbers on Sunday.

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