The Seattle Sounders head to Minneapolis this weekend, to face MLS expansion club Minnesota United for the first time ever. Even though anything can happen in this league, it’s fair to say that the Sounders have the upper hand against a club that likely would have chosen a much different inaugural MLS season. The Sounders are feeling confident that they can continue their unbeaten run, despite the disappointing draw in Los Angeles last weekend. Sounders Forward Will Bruin said “I think we’ve got a good group right now, I think everyone is feeling that confidence.”
Bruin thinks the chemistry developed over the last month or so is as strong as ever, even if the starting lineup gets a bit of a shakeup now that the returning internationals are fully fit to start. “I think we’ve been playing together long enough where the chemistry when they were gone was good, guys wanted their chances and played and performed well,” Bruin said. He doesn’t think the returns of Clint Dempsey or Jordan Morris will do anything but raise the level of training, as well as improve the depth chart as less-experienced players saw more minutes than usual.
Midfielder Cristian Roldan said that no player is teeming with confidence like Jordan Morris after his Gold Cup run, and his return to the Sounders will just infect his teammates with a similar belief in themselves and each other. “I think soccer is all about confidence,” Roldan said. “Seeing [Morris] manage to basically tie the golden boot winner for the Gold Cup is big thing for his confidence and for our team.”
While the Sounders aren’t doing a full film session on the Loons until they arrive in Minnesota, Bruin said that he’s got a bit of an idea of how the expansion side tends to play. “They defend kind of narrow in a 4-4-2 so if we can kind of control tempo and move side to side, get them shifting, we’re going to get our chances going forward.” Even though it hasn’t always been a successful tactic for the Sounders this season, pumping crosses into the box from wide areas to the heads of Bruin, Dempsey, and others might prove valuable against a side weak to it.
Roldan focused instead on the potential speed of Minnesota, which they’ll be especially reliant on without the services of the injured Christian Ramirez. “They have speedy guys, Abu [Danladi], Kevin Molino, [Johan] Venegas...they’ll look to play forward fast, the way they turn is depending on where we are, Gustav and I, and we have to be aware of them at all times.”
Despite Roldan’s brief, successful foray into the number 10 role when Lodeiro was suspended, he’s back in his central midfield role. But with Osvaldo Alonso still out with an injury, Roldan will likely be paired with Gustav Svensson, who is in his preferred and (probably) most effective position. Roldan said the similarities between Alonso and Svensson help with the seamless transition and allow him to continue doing what he does best. “I don’t think I change too much, I still take my chances going forward, I still hang out in that left pocket where Joevin vacates.” He said even though Alonso and Svensson have “different builds,” they both play the number 6 role perfectly. “They’re both number 6’s and they get into a lot of tackles, they do a lot of defensive work for our team.”
Despite starting the season as a role player off the bench, Bruin has worked his way into the starting XI—and the top of the team’s scoring chart. He said that Schmetzer’s preferred 4-2-3-1 formation has helped the team’s chemistry, and it suits his own style of play well. “Our formation is always going to stay the same, that’s something ingrained in us and makes it easier as the season goes on.” While he might not be the most technical player, Bruin said he is pleased that the Sounders’ style means that he doesn’t have to worry about the creative side of things. “I’m not one who’s going to dribble at people and take them on and stuff. I’ll let the Clints and Nicos do that. When we get into the box, I think I can always be a presence in there.”
Having two players like Roldan and Bruin, who are hard workers on the field and endlessly positive off it, has clearly been a great boost for the Sounders this season. Getting Bruin in scoring form and having Roldan get the boost of his first international cap has been huge for the Sounders’ confidence. “When we’re at full strength and healthy, we’re one of the best teams in the league,” Bruin said. “We don’t really care who we’re lining up against, if we control the tempo of the game we control how we want to attack and how we want to defend. I’d take us against anybody.”