Minnesota United are taking their second trip to Seattle under the MLS banner. The Loons are the latest incarnation of pro soccer teams that have called the Twin Cities home, from the NASL, through the lower divisions, and now into MLS. They have a heritage similar to the Seattle Sounders, if not the continuity.
Seattle enters the Sunday April 22 1:00 p.m. (ESPN) match looking for their first league win after their first league draw (0-3-1 -5). The Loons are 2-4-0 -4 in the early season.
Eli Hoff of e pluribus loonum answers Three Questions. The questions were exchanged Tuesday through Friday.
SaH: The defense improved both times the Loons added a former Sounders fullback to the backline, but are Tyrone Mears and Marc Burch the answer?
epl: Long-term, neither are the answer. And I don’t think that Mears and Burch are solving anything immediately either. Mears’s calf issues have already resurfaced this year, which is unfortunate because he was playing better than expected. Burch is a solid backup, but he was something of a liability against Portland. The arrival of Alexi Gomez on loan will certainly replace Burch, while Jerome Thiesson is more likely to start and perform well over Mears.
SaH: Adding Darwin Quintero as the first ever DP gave Minnesota a boost in the PR department. How will he help the team win games?
epl: Quintero has obviously been great for PR, but I think he’ll be even better on the field. He was only supposed to go 60 minutes against Portland last week, but went the full 90. His goal was phenomenal and his other little moves were fun to watch as well. Other players that I’ve spoken to about him say that he brings an energy to the game, and it’s easy to see that in training and in the last match. Minnesota United can frankly use all the energy they can get, so any impact he has will go over well.
SaH: What has changed tactically between year one and year two?
epl: There haven’t been many tactical changes since the initial rough patch at the beginning of last season. It’s still the same 4-2-3-1 with essentially the same players, which was a grievance for many fans heading into this year. The biggest changes have been on either end of the pitch. Matt Lampson has replaced Bobby Shuttleworth in goal, who had quickly become a fan-favorite with some fine saves, and he looked rough last time out. Christian Ramirez, who led the Loons in scoring in the NASL days, has been struggling this year and has been benched for second-year player Abu Danladi. Manager Adrian Heath wants to see the team rely more on pacy counters and breakaways, but that hasn’t really worked out much this season.
epl: Seattle has struggled so far in the 2018 season. Is there any concern about early performances?
SaH: There’s definitely concern. This is a team that’s earned high standards, and right now they aren’t reaching their high standards. Maybe we’re spoiled, earning 22% of major trophies over a nine year run, but that creates certain expectations. At this time the Seattle Sounders are failing to meet those expectations. There are many reasons -- injuries, suspensions, lack of signings. The reasons may help mollify our reasonable mind, but soccer is a game of passion and our heart just sees a disappointing 2-5-1 -10. It’s pretty bad. There is still reason to hope, as the injuries and suspensions are fading away.
epl: The Sounders’ support seems to be some of the strongest in MLS, but just how popular is soccer in Seattle?
SaH: While the support here is large, it’s still capable of growing. There are demographics that still are relatively untapped, empty seats for them to fill, and a combination TV/streaming deal for the youth market as well as broadcasts on Univision-Seattle. What we have on gamedays is great. What we have online is great. When we look at what NHL Seattle just did Sounders fans can know that there is still room for more sports here, more soccer here, and some day those tarps will be gone.
epl: What’s the perception of Minnesota United among Seattle fans?
SaH: I don’t know that there’s a strong impression of the Loons. There’s a bit of sorrow that the launch has struggled on the field, respect for the fans that keep showing up in miserable weather in a borrowed stadium, and hope that it can all change with the new stadium. I wouldn’t be surprised to see a bit of jealousy about Darwin Quintero’s signing, as those same people forget that’s the first ever DP United has signed. With only a single meeting so far, and the struggling team, there just aren’t strong feelings yet.