SEATTLE — After spending much of the summer and fall grinding out results, the Seattle Sounders closed out their regular-season in very much the same way. The 1-0 win over Minnesota United on Sunday showed some glimpses of a team still capable of reaching a level they’ve failed to sustain much of the year, but also was just as precarious as the scoreline suggests.
The goal came off the head of Román Torres in the 29th minute and was delivered with pinpoint accuracy by Joevin Jones. Although the finished with 15 shots, though, there weren’t many other clearcut opportunities.
While the offense was definitely short of spectacular, the defense was about as good as its been all year. Aside from the error that allowed Ethan Finlay to break in on goal for a 1v1 chance — which he hit off the post — United never really threatened and only forced Stefan Frei into a single save.
The win pushes the Sounders up to No. 2 spot in the Western Conference and the No. 4 spot overall, meaning they’d potentially host a MLS Cup against anyone other than New York City and Atlanta United.
- Jordan Morris got the Sounders started well when he intercepted an Ike Opara pass on the wing in the 4th minute. Although the opportunity fizzled, it did set a ton for a energetic first half in which the Sounders had 13 defensive actions in Minnesota’s end.
- Joevin Jones was able to work himself free inside the penalty area only to have his tight-angle shot saved at the near post in the 29th minute.
- Just two minutes later, Jones set up Roman Torres for a back post header that the centerback powered into the net. It was Torres’ first MLS goal since joining the Sounders in 2015. It also marked the first time a Sounders centerback not named Chad Marshall had scored a goal since 2014.
- Minnesota had a wonderful chance to equalize in the 40th minute when Ethan Finlay was able to out-maneuver Brad Smith on a ball over the top. With Torres slow to recover, that left Finlay with an 1v1 chance with Stefan Frei, but he put his shot off the post.
- Darwin Quintero found himself in space in the 54th minute, but his attempt from about 25 yards was right at Frei.
- Minnesota’s best look at a second-half equalizer came in the 75th minute when Kevin Molino got a look from the edge of the penalty area, but Torres was able to make a block and keep the clean sheet.
A day for redemption: It has been more than two months since Torres started for the Sounders most of which was due to his 10-game suspension for PED use. He didn’t show much rust. Torres had a team-best six clearances and added two tackles. But his big moment came in the 29th minute, when he put away Jones’ cross for his first-ever MLS goal. Jones, too, had probably his best game since rejoining the Sounders. He was as active as he’s been all year and looked engaged in a way we’d rarely seen. If this is the version of Jones we get in the playoffs, the Sounders are in good shape.
Not bad all things considered: While it was definitely a grind, it’s hard to complain too much about where the Sounders ended up. Their 56 points was their fourth highest total ever and their fourth-place Supporters’ Shield finish is tied for their second highest finish in the last five seasons. So why did it feel like such a grind? Probably because 12 of their 16 wins were by one goal, which includes six 1-0 victories. The Sounders ended up finishing 12-5-8 in games decided by one goal or fewer. While blowout goals are great for the psyche, I suspect these types of games work to prepare them for the playoffs more effectively.
Ready for Dallas: The Sounders will now have about two weeks between now and their first playoff game against FC Dallas on Oct. 19. The good news is that gives Victor Rodriguez some additional time to get fit and they don’t need to worry about Raúl Ruidíaz or Nicolas Lodeiro going off on international duty. The bad news is that eight players will be on international duty, including five who have games scheduled for Oct. 15. Of those five, two — Gustav Svensson and Brad Smith — have particularly long trips home. Svensson will be flying nearly 5,000 miles from Sweden and Smith will be on the tail-end of a trip to Australia and Chinese Taipei that will give him about 15,000 air miles. Let’s hope they fly first class.
Did you see that?!?
It was nice to see the old Joevin Jones again.
He said what?!?
“Although I was arguing with the fourth official at the time about some of [Osvaldo Alonso’s] slide tackles, I loved them. You can see the competitive nature that he still has, that he still possesses. I thought his game was very good, but you know, you just know that he’s a very competitive guy by nature and he wanted his team to win, and he was willing to do whatever it takes.” - Brian Schmetzer on his former captain
One stat to tell the tale
6 — The Sounders have now won their regular-season finale six straight times and are 7-0-1 when their final match of the season is played at home.
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