Sounder at Heart: 2020 has been a wild ride for everyone, but what’s it like been for Loons fans? How are you feeling being in the Western Conference Finals for the first time?
E Pluribus Loonum: It’s been just absolutely insane. Winning streaks, shutout streaks, losing streaks, and even just not being able to score. It has absolutely been a roller-coaster to say the least. Had you asked me back in August to Mid-September if we would make the playoffs I would’ve said probably but we will be like the 8 seed and get thrashed right away. Pieces started to come together and all of the sudden we haven’t lost since Sept. 27 and have outscored our opponents 9-0 in the last three games. As for making it to the Western Conference finals it actually makes me think back to the Minnesota Wild’s unlikely run to the same spot in their third season in the NHL. Which scares the hell out of me because the Wild got trounced 4 games to none in that series. So I’m doing my best not to think about that because we all know how good Seattle is but also how good the Loons can be.
SAH: It seems like Minnesota United goes the way of Emanuel Reynoso. What makes the No. 10 so good? What’re the keys to stopping him?
EPL: Not gonna lie this is a bit of a tougher question for me. The Reynoso saga itself was long and winding and we have only just started to see the fruits of that saga start to pay off. But with them paying off we’ve seen the number of goals start to rise significantly. Minnesota is 100% a team that feeds off the counter to start its attack and Bebelo is a huge part of that. He can find space on the field and always seems to find an open pass to start said attack. I think that alone has made him worth everything and more considering how much he pays off. As for stopping him it really comes to slowing him down and trying to kill the Loons’ counter attack. The combination of the two could kill any attempt at goal for MNUFC and make this game painful for us here in Minnesota.
SAH: Seattle has both native and adopted sons on United in Hassani Dotson and Ozzie Alonso. How important have both players been this year?
EPL: With this weird season they’ve both been super important in very different ways. Dotson has been jumping between the midfield and defense due to various injuries on the team this season. And while the team has struggled at times, Dotson has given his all and really been a player to count on being able to play the full 90 if/when we need him. Which was actually for a good chunk of the 2020 season. Though I’m not sure how much of a factor he will be tonight as in the last five regular season games he has only appeared for a combined 30 minutes. That is the result of Houston’s Adam Lundkvist getting Dotson with a come-from-behind, studs up tackle. So we’re lucky we didn’t lose him for the season, but on the other hand he has played 108 minutes in the playoffs so we’ll have to see who Heath decides to go with.
As for Ozzie he has really been the heart and soul of this team and at times playing without him in the XI has been very noticeable. Alonso missed 11 of the 23 games Minnesota played this season, which is really tough considering he is a fantastic defensive midfielder. There is 100% a reason he wears the armband when he plays, and while statistically there isn’t much to show as a DM he really does come off to me as a field general. He is projected to start tonight against Seattle which I’m really hoping makes a huge difference in terms of how well MNUFC plays against the Sounders.