The Sounders head to Minnesota on Saturday for the first time since Will Bruin scored that lovely chip to win the game late last year.
Sounder at Heart: This will be a very odd game for Sounders fans. This is the first time the Sounders will have to play against Ozzie Alonso. How’s he getting on in Minnesota?
E Pluribus Loonum: Ozzie Alonso has been Minnesota’s best midfielder so far this season; after all, he scored the first-ever MNUFC goal at Allianz Field. Alonso’s role at the 6 is something we’ve never really had. The closest thing we’ve ever had to a No. 6 is Collen Warner. Having a player of his caliber controlling the midfield has been revolutionary. He’s worn the captain’s armband the past two games while Francisco Calvo was not in the 18 and Alonso’s leadership is an obvious reason why Heath did that. He has become a favorite amongst fans in just two months, with media outlets giving him accolades for his professionalism in interviews as well. His role as a Loon is so important to our 2019 playoff push, and I truly don’t think we would have half the points we do this season without him. Alonso may be getting to the age of running short on fumes, but so far, he’s shown none of that in Minnesota.
SAH: Ozzie isn’t the only new player for the Loons. What other new additions to the squad have helped the Loons improve?
EPL: Romain Metanire is definitely the biggest one. The Malagasy international joined the Loons after playing in Ligue 2 and Ligue 1 with Stade de Reims. He has been our best player so far this season and that’s not even debatable — he has been a revelation in the fullback role. Adrian Heath called him one of the best fullbacks in MLS this past week after he made MLS team of the week for the second time this season. His crossing has been something we haven’t had during our two years as an MLS club and his work rate is incredible. The 29-year-old has a bright future with the club and the Wonderwall already knows that. They have a chant dedicated to him and his name is recognized by any fan. I should also mention Jan Gregus though; our newest Designated Player. The midfielder joined the Loons from FC Copenhagen. The Slovak international comes with a lot of experience, playing alongside the likes of Marek Hamsik with the national team. The central midfielder has also become a set piece specialist for the Loons. For free kicks, either him or Darwin Quintero will line up and it’s typically the same for corners. Gregus has had a fairly good showing for MNUFC so far, but he is still integrating to the play style of Heath. He can be prone to silly mistakes in the midfield, one of those earned him his first red card in MLS. The two have both been great additions to the core of the team, but Metanire has undoubtedly been the Loons’ player of the season so far. Lastly, Ike Opara. The CB has filled the role of a shot stopping, physical and determined CB – he’s a veteran from the league and we couldn’t be happier to have him. He is a leader on the back line and he’s saved our butts a few times so far this season.
SAH: While the Loons are having a good season so far, things aren’t perfect. What are the weaknesses in the squad and how can they get better?
EPL: Weaknesses are still in the center back role and the striker roles in my eyes. Angelo Rodriguez is having his best season yet with Minnesota, logging four goals and one assist in nine games. That’s not a bad tally, but I still have my doubts for the Colombian. His hold-up play has been miraculous up top, and he really is improving, though. He is not a quick striker nor is he very agile, if he is in a 1v1 situation with a defender, I don’t think he’s the type of person who can win that battle. There have been a lot of comparisons to Solomon Rondon on Newcastle FC. I hope he improves and succeeds, I just have my doubts. Our biggest problem now, and since we’ve become an MLS team, is defense. I want to highlight the struggles of our CB though. Brent Kallman, Michael Boxall Francisco Calvo and Ike Opara. Opara is not a problem, he’ great, so let’s exclude him from this. Michael Boxall has had his worst string of performances as a Loon so far this season, and as a result, he’s been benched the past two games by Heath. Heath has been favoring Woodbury, MN native Brent Kallman in his place. Kallman and Miguel Ibarra are the only Loons left from the NASL team. The MNUFC defense is on track to concede nearly 60 goals this season; that’s simply unacceptable. If we are to move forward with the duo of Kallman and Opara, they have to prove that they can play together and produce shutouts.
The reverse questions can be found here.