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Sounders vs. Minnesota United, recap: Raúl Ruidíaz brace paces big win

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Sounders open the season with a 4-0 win at home.

Max Aquino / Sounder at Heart

As starts to the season go, a 4-0 win over Minnesota United is a pretty good one for the Seattle Sounders. The win wasn’t as comfortable as the scoreline might suggest, though.

Adrian Heath’s side came into this game looking for a bit of payback for the 2020 Western Conference Final, pressing the Sounders and largely keeping them stuck inside their own half. When Seattle avoided giving up what likely would have been a questionable penalty for a handball on Josh Atencio (there was an offside player involved in the run up to the handball) and went down to the other end and earned their own PK things seemed to be turning around. Without Nico Lodeiro available Raúl Ruidiaz stepped up to the spot and saw his attempt saved, furthering the feeling that things just weren’t going to go the Sounders’ way. The two teams went into halftime tied 0-0.

Brian Schmetzer’s side wasted no time in the second half, immediately looking like the more likely to score, and made good on that in the 49th minute when João Paulo collected the ball at the top of the box after a defender cleared an Alex Roldan cross, popping the ball up with his first touch and launching it beyond the reach of the Minnesota ‘keeper with his second. Cristian Roldan prevented an immediate answer to the goal, clearing a header off the line. Both teams went back and forth, creating plenty of chances, but Seattle struck gold again in the 70th, then in the 73rd and finally in the 86th. This game saw Kelyn Rowe make his 253rd professional appearance as he stepped onto the field for his hometown team for the first time, as well as the reintroduction of Fredy Montero. All told this win served as a pretty good case for Brian Schmetzer’s new formation, even in the absence of Nico Lodeiro.

Key moments

29’ - Ruidíaz steps up to the spot after Cristian Roldan draws a penalty on a handball, but the Minnesota GK dives to his right and stops the shot.

49’ - João Paulo puts in an early contender for Goal of the Year, taking a touch to juggle the ball up before unleashing a volleyed rocket to beat the ‘keeper. 1-0

51’ - Minnesota win a free kick in a dangerous area and the ensuing shot is in for a certain goal, but Cristian Roldan intervenes on the goal line to clear the danger.

70’ - A good series of play kicks into high gear as Bruin spins his defender with a silky touch before cutting back a pass that Ruidíaz finishes first time. 2-0

73’ - Ruidíaz didn’t wait long to add his second, when a perfect touch off of a through ball from Montero put Cristian Roldan in perfect position to set the forward up for a finish at the far post. 3-0

86’ - Montero got in on the goal scoring after Alex Roldan found him at the far corner of the box with an excellent cross, which Montero sent back across goal with his first touch. 4-0

Quick thoughts

3-5-2: The new formation had a tough start, but the team really showed why Schmetzer is so interested in using it. The formation has an interesting ability to cover for the shortcomings of some of the weaker players by limiting what they’re responsible for — Alex Roldan isn’t the greatest defender, but he’s useful in possession and hits a heck of a cross, for example — while also highlighting the strengths of the best players by allowing them to share their workload and interchange to find space. Things should only improve once Lodeiro’s back.

That’s a big kid: Josh Atencio got his first start with the Sounders against Minnesota, with Lodeiro’s absence opening up a spot in midfield. Atencio wasn’t perfect, but at no point did he look out of place or appear to struggle with the speed or physicality of the game. On the contrary, he bossed Minnesota midfielders repeatedly, taking advantage of the fact that they perceived him as the weak point in the Sounders midfield. The 19-year-old had four successful dribbles, completed 81% of his passes, and won 78% of his 15 duels, a number only bested by Will Bruin who won 80% of his 16 duels. On top of all that, Atencio consistently showed up in important spots, got involved in a couple of the goals, and all around looked like one of the best players on the field at times.

Golden boots for Ruidíaz? Raul Ruidíaz joined the Sounders camp late due to delays in getting his green card. It would have been understandable to wonder if he might be rusty coming into the game, and even more so after he saw his penalty saved in the first half. His two goals, instinctive and ruthless, showed the quality of player that Ruidíaz is, and the reason that he’s almost always going to be one of the first names on the team sheet when he’s healthy. Assuming he can stay healthy, Ruidíaz has as good of a shot at the Golden Boot as anyone this season, and there will still be plenty of goals to go around.

Did you see that?!?

João Paulo only scores bangers.

He said what?!?


Poll

Man of the match

This poll is closed

  • 25%
    Raúl Ruidiaz
    (269 votes)
  • 6%
    Josh Atencio
    (71 votes)
  • 38%
    João Paulo
    (415 votes)
  • 16%
    Nouhou
    (179 votes)
  • 12%
    C. Roldan
    (137 votes)
1071 votes total Vote Now