As Seattle Sounders surge back into respectability their latest challenge is a trip to Minnesota United, one of the best home sides in the league. The Loons have the 4th best home record with recent opponent Altanta sitting at 6th at home. The Sounders are 2-0-2 +2 in their last four road games. This performance coincides with their surge up the Shield standings, though Seattle is still just 10th in the West (a win Saturday could move them as high as 7th).
Both teams boosted their attack with midseason signings of scorers. Both signings were from Liga MX. If Minnesota is to make the playoffs it will be on the back of Quintero and amazing home form. If Seattle is to make the playoffs it will be on the back of one of the best defenses in the league, and scoring threats that do just enough.
Eli Hoff of e pluribus loonum answers Three Questions. The questions were exchanged Thursday afternoon through Saturday morning. There are projected lineups.
SaH: Darwin Quintero looks the sames as he’s ever been. What’s it meant to United to have him in the form he is?
epl: It’s been absolutely amazing to have Quintero performing like this. United manager Adrian Heath put it well when he said after a game that it feels like a goal is coming every time Darwin touches the ball. He’s giving the whole team confidence with his play and that’s showing when the team is playing at home.
SaH: Defense remains a weakness. Is the goal to outgun opponents in a 4-2 type game?
epl: Pretty much. The only additions of the transfer window have been Angelo Rodriguez, a DP forward, and a winger, so defense is confusingly not a priority. The formation switch from a 4-2-3-1 to a 3-5-2 has helped and set piece defending has improved, but conceding goals is still a major concern. Even with Quintero being as electric as he has been, no team is built to consistently score four or five goals in a game to outweigh the defensive struggles. It seems like much of it could be helped with the signing of a lockdown centerback and reliable holding midfielder.
SaH: Is Adrian Heath on the hot seat?
epl: For the fans, yes. For the front office, no. The club has preached a three-year plan from the get-go that culminates in the club actually trying for something next year when Allianz Field opens. The apparent lack of interest in the first two MLS seasons has miffed more than a few fans. #HeathOut hasn’t been popping up on Twitter as much in recent weeks, partly due to home successes and a good look with the new 3-5-2, but the season will likely be determined by the Loons’ stretch of five consecutive away games after the matchup with Seattle. It would be surprising for the club to bail on Heath midseason, so he should have at least until the end of the campaign.
Francisco Calvo, Brent Kallman, Michael Boxall;
Miguel Ibarra, Rasmus Schuller, Ibson, Collen Warner, Eric Miller
Darwin Quintero, Christian Ramirez
epl: After a rough start to the season, it looks like Seattle is finally getting going. What prompted the turnaround?
SaH: The season started with three-straight matches playing down a man. Then the injuries continued to pile up. Neither of those things have been at nearly the level that marred the early season. Finally getting through the injury bug, down to reasonable MLS levels, meant that the offense is at least mediocre now. But a defense this good doesn’t need more than a mid-table attack to win a lot of games. The two most important players to return from injury were Victor Rodriguez (who is again questionable) and Osvaldo Alonso. Rodriguez’s deft passes opened up the attack. Alonso is the heart of the team. While he isn’t as effective as he was there is a certain spirit from the group that coincides with his return.
epl: After two successful postseasons, how confident are fans of making it to the MLS Cup Final again this year?
SaH: There’s no confidence in making an MLS Cup Final at this time. Step one is to climb above the red line and just make the MLS Cup Playoffs. There is a certain level of confidence about that though. Going undefeated in six while winning three straight while having a defense that smothers even great attacks as a way of rejuvenating the emotions in the area. For now the only target is sixth place, and then it will be fourth place. The Cup will come if it comes.
epl: How is Ruidiaz fitting in for Seattle?
SaH: It’s still early. He has all of two appearances at this point. What’s gone well is his ability to move off the ball, always looking for a dangerous two-step move into space. He’s been a much better passer than expected, and his defense is good as well. All the signs are that he was an extraordinary signing for the long term.
And a projected lineup, if you could.
4-2-3-1: Stefan Frei; Nouhou, Chad Marshall, Kim Kee-hee, Kelvin Leerdam; Osvaldo Alonso, Gustav Svensson; Harry Shipp, Cristian Roldan, Nicolas Lodeiro; Raul Ruidiaz