SEATTLE — There was plenty to like in the Seattle Sounders’ first win of the 2018 MLS season, but there were also some frustrating lapses in a game that was probably closer than the 3-1 scoreline would suggest. Minnesota United was roundly outplayed in the first 45 minutes, and were probably a bit unlucky to have not equalized at some point in the second half. Jordy Delem’s last-second goal will make this look like a relatively comfortable win, but some lax defending and an inability to control the midfield nearly led to the Sounders’ undoing.
Having not won a game yet, the Sounders came into this one in desperate need of three points. They got ‘em, thanks in no small part to a quartet of players who are all ostensibly defensive midfielders.
It’s tough to hit a ball better than Gustav Svensson did on his goal from about 26 yards out. The Swedish midfielder took a centering pass from Cristian Roldan and fired an absolute laser into the top corner to give the Sounders their first MLS home goal of the season.
Only a few moments later, Roldan set up another goal. This time tracked down a pass from Nicolas Lodeiro and cut it back in front of goal where Will Bruin was able to finish it. At that point, it looked like the Sounders might win in a romp, and through the rest of the half they were rolling even if a third goal ultimately didn’t come.
But some lax defending finally came back to bite them when Darwin Quintero was allowed to float a ball across the goal and no one seemed to really be marking Christian Ramirez, who headed it back across for United’s only goal of the match.
Minnesota’s best chance at an equalizer came when Stefan Frei missed a ball coming off his line and Francisco Calvo had a tight-angled look at a mostly empty net. Luckily for the Sounders, he hit side netting.
The Sounders finally put the game away when Clint Dempsey put Jordy Delem in with a perfectly weighted pass. Delem, who hadn’t scored a professional goal before, finished easily.
Defensive midfielders rise up
- Osvaldo Alonso looked every bit the Designated Player in his first start since Sept. 27, 2017. His 75-minute shift lacked a signature play, but his five tackles, five recoveries, and 95 percent passing were vintage stuff.
- Cristian Roldan was a beast for the first 30 minutes or so, wreaking havoc throughout United’s defensive half both with the ball and without. He did this while keeping a high line and harassing defenders and was rewarded with a pair of assists. He also nearly scored, but his close-range volley was right at Bobby Shuttleworth.
- Svensson is not a scorer, but that only served to underscore what an amazing hit that was. Who knows how this game goes without that early goal? The goal was an exclamation point to a wonderful overall performance that also saw him make a game-high six tackles, destroying any semblance of United’s ability to move the ball through the middle of the park.
There were problems
- Roman Torres has not had the best start to his season and, if the Sounders had failed to secure three points, the Panamanian would have been a big reason why. His day started out auspiciously when he somehow failed to finish a point-blank header at the back post. Never an overall great passer, he also struggled there as he completed a team-worst 64 percent of his passes with at least three giveaways under no pressure. To compound those mistakes, he also looked to be very slow to rotate to Ramirez on United’s goal. His starting spot is probably safe for now, but Kim Kee-Hee may be pressing him once healthy.
- Brian Schmetzer insisted the game started to turn around the 30th minute, and by the time Clint Dempsey entered in the 60th the Loons were already well on their way to controlling that portion. Still, the gap between Dempsey’s relative lack of energy in the middle compared to Roldan’s seemed to throw off both the defensive and offensive shapes. His assist was a reminder of just how good he can be, but there’s some work to do to figure out how best to use him going forward.
What to make of the Wolff?
- I don’t think Magnus Wolff Eikrem was bad, and he certainly had plenty of energy, but it’s a little concerning that Alex Roldan has now started two straight in place of him. Aside from a standout performance against Santa Tecla, we’ve not seen him exert anything like “his will” on the game. Let’s hope there are better days ahead.
4-2-3-1: Frei; Nouhou, Marshall, Torres, Leerdam; Alonso (Wolff 75), Svensson; A. Roldan (Dempsey 60), C. Roldan, Lodeiro; Bruin (Delem 90+2).
4-2-3-1: Shuttleworth; Thiesson, Calvo, Boxall, Manley; Ibson, Schuller; Ibarra (Toye 84), Quintero, Finlay (Nicholson 45); Danladi (Ramirez 52).
23: Svensson (assists: C. Roldan, Alonso)
25: Bruin (assists: C. Roldan, Lodeiro)
66: Ramirez (assists: Quinto, Nicholson)
90+5: Delem (assists: Dempsey)
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