What You’ll Watch
The Seattle Sounders hit the pitch and look to add to their six game unbeaten streak as they travel to the Twin Cities to take on Minnesota United. Earlier this season, the Sounders picked up their first win of the season against the Loons in their 3-1 victory on April 22. This is the second and final meeting between the two clubs this season.
Minnesota currently sits in eight place of the Western Conference with a record of 9-12-1 (28 points in 22 games played; 1.27 ppg). The Sounders sit just two spots back in tenth place with a record of 7-9-5 (26 points in 21 games played; 1.24 ppg). A win will see the Sounders jump above a team that is ahead of them in the standings and will help them continue their march up the standings.
This is the fourth all-time meeting between the two clubs. The Sounders have scored nine goals and have conceded only twice. Last season, the Sounders won 4-0 in their only visit to Minnesota.
A Look at the Enemy
Last Five: L-W-W-W-L with 12 goals scored and 11 goals conceded
Leading Goal Scorer: Darwin Quintero, nine goals (eight at home)
Assist Leader: Quintero, eight assists (four at home)
Goalkeeper Stats: Bobby Shuttleworth, 16 starts — 2.00 GAA (69.2 save percentage)
Injury Report, Suspensions and International Duty
Out: Sam Cronin (cervicogenic dysfunction), Kevin Molino (torn left ACL), Ethan Finlay (torn ACL) and Jerome Thiesson (right leg injury)
International Duty: N/A
Out: Jordan Morris (torn ACL) and Handwalla Bwana (right midfoot sprain)
Questionable: Victor Rodriguez (right hamstring strain)
International Duty: N/A
REFEREE: Drew Fischer
AR1: Joe Fletcher
AR2: Felisha Mariscal
4th: Joseph Dickerson
VAR: Katja Koroleva
What to Watch
When last we looked at Minnesota together the season was young, hope of a solid first half of the season was still in the air, and Quintero had just arrived on the scene for the wannabe Canadians.
My prognostication of a shift to a bucket 4-4-2 didn’t really pan out. The former Club America forward has been deployed in a true #10 role mostly, and head coach Adrian Heath has tried a few different things that can roughly be allocated into the 4-2-3-1, 5-3-2, and 3-5-2 arenas; all more or less pointed at trying to shore up the second-worst defense in the league by xGA (expected goals against). At first glance their tackles and interceptions per game seem indicative of a team that would be defusing opponents’ attacks (they’re near the top in both), but these are really just abnormally high because they spend the third highest amount of time in their own defensive third (behind such defensive stalwarts as DC United and the Chicago Fire). This remains a defense that isn’t well-organised; the addition of an intelligent player like Raul Ruidiaz has the potential to cause a lot of problems as they attempt to keep track of him.
What really has helped Minnesota stay above the rest of the cellar dwellers in the league is their ability to attack with quality and score quickly. In Quintero, Christian Ramirez, and Miguel Ibarra - maybe even a little bit Ethan Finlay - there’s talent and quickness that can leave a defense spinning if it isn’t careful, but there isn’t sufficient quality on the ball throughout the team to possess themselves into danger. Distribution maps reveal a number of intermediate passes - not quite long balls, but indicative of the focus on pushing forward over dictating pace and control.
There’s a massive focus on right-sided attacks, which will funnel them right into the teeth of Nouhou and Chad Marshall. The Loons shoot from the center channel of the pitch less than almost anyone (21st in the league at 57%), an unsurprising consequence of a relative lack of support to the attack from the deeper central midfielders. forcing the attackers apart from each other should provide space to intercept the longer passes.
This isn’t a sure thing win, but it sure feels like a solid opportunity for three points, even given Minnesota’s success at home this year. The Sounders defense has held up to stiffer tests than this just fine, and the offense gets another struggling defense just as it looks to be getting its feet back under it.
- Quintero has quickly shown himself to be the talisman for Minnesota in much the same way Ignacio Piatti’s performances determine Montreal’s results. Marking him closely, perhaps even with a true man-marking effort similar to that rolled out in Atlanta, might be a good idea.
- Quintero needs to be pushed to get rid of the ball early to force other players to carry the creative burden. So far Ibarra is the only one who has shown the ability to pick up any of the slack there, but - as we saw pre-Quintero - that’s not nearly the same level of chance creation.
- Quintero can’t be the only focus. Ramirez is a capable center forward who will make teams pay if they forget him. Ibarra isn’t the finisher Quintero is, but he’s capable of banging goals in if he’s given too much space.
How to Watch
Date/Time: Saturday, August 4 @ 5:00 PM
Location: TCF Bank Stadium — Minneapolis, Minnesota
TV: JOEtv & Univision-Seattle
Streaming: YouTube TV
Radio: 950 KJR AM (English), El Rey 1360AM (Spanish)