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Scouting Report: Flushing the Loons

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Minnesota United may be a mid-low table team, but they’re not as toothless as hens

Max Aquino / Sounder at Heart

What You’ll Watch

For the first time all season, the Seattle Sounders will play a league game in back-to-back weekends. After their successful road trip to Sporting Kansas City, the boys in Rave Green return home and welcome Minnesota United FC to town for the first time this season.

Seattle will look to pick up their first points at home this season while Minnesota will look to pick up points on the road for the second time this year.

Seattle is currently dead last in the West with one point in four games played (0-3-1, 0.25 ppg) and Minnesota is currently eighth in the West with six points in six games played (2-4-0; 1 ppg).

A Look at the Enemy

Last Five: W-W-L-L-L with six goals scored and nine conceded

Top Scorer: Kevin Molino and Ethan Finlay, two each

Top Assist Leader: Miguel Ibarra, two

Injuries, Suspensions, International Duty

Minnesota

United will be missing a few key pieces when they walk on the pitch this Sunday afternoon. Sam Cronin (cervicogenic dysfunction), Kevin Molino (torn left ACL 3/10, out for season) and Tyrone Mears (rigth leg injury) are all listed as out. Marc Burch (knee injury) subbed out agianst Portland last weekend and his status is still up in the air.

Seattle

For the Sounders, it’s the same old song and dance. Jordan Morris (torn ACL 2/22, out for season) and Kim Kee-Hee (right calf strain) are both listed as out. Waylon Francis (right hamstring strain) and Harry Shipp (right ankle sprain) are listed as questionable.

Match Officials

Referee: Armando Villarreal

AR1: Kyle Atkins

AR2: Apolinar Mariscal

4TH: Sorin Stoica

VAR: Caleb Mendez

What to Watch futurama

Minnesota’s System: Disjointed. Lacking coherence. In need of solid transition midfield work. Whereas the Sounders have been playing second and third stringers (and maybe deeper, depending on your depth chart opinions) and struggling with their offensive (and sometimes defensive) flow, Minnesota is arguably playing at near their peak and the same flaws are showing on their side.

Minnesota started the season out with a 4-2-3-1, but the addition of Darwin Quintero may lead to more of a bucket 4-4-2 or 4-1-3-2 (ostensibly a flat 4-4-2 with Ibson holding back). During their most productive time against Portland this looked to be the general structure of the team.

Quintero is already unquestionably the best and most threatening member of the team. His gravitas opened space for Miguel Ibarra and Ethan Finlay, and only poor finishing kept them from hanging a lot more on the Timbers. Another week of practice will help with the understanding, and its likely the offense’s chemistry will be at least marginally improved this week; they’re going to generate opportunities (although Christian Ramirez may not; even with Quintero on the field he was mostly invisible).

There’s really no way to sugarcoat it with platitudes: the Minnesota Loons’ defense is weak. In half of their matches they’ve given up three goals. Almost every decent offense they’ve faced, save only Atlanta, has eaten them alive. None of the outside backs are particularly skilled at defense (or offense, or transition, if we’re being totally honest). Both centerbacks stay tucked in even with the outside backs high, leaving pockets for either a defensive midfielder or winger to cover. This allows both of Ibson and Rasmus Schüller to stay higher, as opposed to dropping a CDM between the CBs as the Sounders typically do, but at significant cost to defensive width. Teams able to exploit the wings - and hoo boy does Seattle rely on outside play - are the most successful against them.

On both defense and offense, and as was his modus operandi in Orlando, Adrian Heath’s system seems to be set up to cautiously counterattack, but without any real idea of how to set up the defense for recovery. They seemingly have no specific identity structurally or statistically (they sit mid-to-low in the league in almost every possible category on both sides of the ball), and if one is intended it really doesn’t seem to be getting through to the players. Despite Minnesota averaging about 53% of the possession on the season (likely inflated due to , Seattle should have plenty of the ball, and plenty of clear opportunities.

Target the target: The Sounders have had no issue getting shots off this season, even with the player churn. They’ve had a terrible time getting them on target, however. Despite taking 2.5 shots per game more than Minnesota, they have nearly identical shots on target per game rates (and both sit in the bottom third of the league in this statistic). This is a continuation of a frustrating/worrying trend going back to at least the early parts of last season: Seattle continues to be one of the most wasteful teams in the league in front of goal.

This almost certainly isn’t by design, and the team has generally found ways to succeed in spite of it. The return of Clint Dempsey, Kelvin Leerdam, and the approaching return of Victor Rodriguez should help alleviate this, hopefully converting some of of the more speculative opportunities into quality ones.

This is a good game to get some practice in. Minnesota’s keeper, Matt Lampson, hasn’t been inspiring in his shotstopping, his command of the box, or his command of the defense. This is the perfect time to pepper the goal face with all manner of attempt. With a likely front four of Lodeiro-Dempsey-Wolff-Bruin there should be plenty of skill to go hit them with a dizzying array of punches.

Protect the flanks: Ethan Finlay and Miguel Ibarra aren’t schmucks. Each bring a unique skillset with components that will test Seattle’s defensive weaknesses - namely, cohesion and communication. Ibarra plays the channel between outside back and CB well; Roman Torres will need significant help (like always) from Leerdam to cover for when he’s beaten high up the field. Nouhou will have to rely on more than speed to keep up with Finlay, who will happily take advantage of poor positioning or support by the youngster. Quintero’s ability to set defenders spinning like tops may not be what it was last time he was in Seattle a couple years ago, but he’s still fearsome and capable of slaloming his way right up to the goal mouth. He’ll occupy central defensive attention enough that there should be plenty of 1v1 battles on the outside.

To this point the Loons have attempted to cross their way to victory, leading the league in crosses attempted and completed per game. Ramirez just hasn’t been able to reproduce his 2016 form yet, and they’ve clearly suffered for it. Whether there’s a renewed focus on playing on the ground or not, don’t expect the outside emphasis to wane too much.

Once again two of the most important players for Seattle will be the outside backs, followed closely by whoever is tasked with covering for them. Much will be asked of them, and much can be achieved through them.

How to Watch

Date/Time: April 22, 1:00 PM

Location: CenturyLink Field

TV: ESPN, YouTube TV

Radio: 950 KJR AM (English), El Rey 1360 AM (Spanish)