For most of their MLS existence, the Seattle Sounders have had Minnesota United’s number. In fact, if you go back to Adrian Heath’s time with Orlando City, he has only beaten the Sounders once in 10 attempts. That win, of course, was in their most recent meeting and handed the Sounders their first loss of the season.
The Sounders have a couple ignominious streaks going on right now so they’ll definitely be looking to recapture some of that old form.
Here’s what we’re hoping to see:
Don’t rush the internationals
The Sounders did not play through the international window this time, something many teams did. However, their international players still flew all over the world and played competitive minutes. Cristian Roldan featured as a substitute in all three of the USMNT’s World Cup qualifiers; Raúl Ruidíaz featured in a similar role for Peru in South America; Brad Smith only played in one game for Australia and was subbed off after 56 minutes; Xavier Arreaga featured similarly for Ecuador, only playing 1 match for 59 minutes; and Alex Roldan played 270 minutes across three games in seven days for El Salvador.
The Sounders coaching staff has a decision to make with every one of these players, but if I had to bet on any of them making the starting lineup, it would probably be Ruidíaz. But even he might not be back in Seattle until gameday. There’s a good chance all five are simply saved for this upcoming stretch that could see the Sounders play seven competitive matches in a little over three weeks.
Sweet Stefan Frei
Brian Schmetzer has already announced that Saturday will be the first start for Stefan Frei since he injured his knee against San Jose on May 12. Of course, that knee injury came with some health complication that has sidelined him even longer. Stefan Cleveland has done an admirable job deputizing as the backup goalkeeper, but seeing Frei back in the lineup will be welcome. Let’s not forget that he had only allowed two goals — both from free kicks — during his first five starts of the season.
Correct the home form
The Sounders haven’t won a match in four league home games in a row. That’s ties their longest stretch of home futility, with the first coming in 2009 when they went winless in four home matches in July-September. Oddly enough, the Sounders have been downright dominant on the road in the meantime, with their only road loss of the season coming against Minnesota United. Even if Seattle’s home form was slightly better, they’d likely be Supporters’ Shield favorites. But the reality of the situation is that the Sounders will likely need to win at least 4 of their final 5 home games if they want to win the West.
Shut down Fanendo Adi
Remember that tall guy who scored a bunch of goals for Portland against Seattle? Yeah, the guy who jumped on top of that silly log in 2016 with the chainsaw. Well, that guy plays for Minnesota United now. Weird, I know. Adi has eight career goals against the Sounders, which is second behind only Robbie Keane and Chris Wondolowski who both have 12. Adi is clearly not the player he used to be, but he’s always been up for playing against Seattle and with Minnesota missing both Robin Lod and Emanuel Reynoso, it would not be surprising to see Heath turn to his big forward.
The area with the biggest question marks for Seattle ahead of Saturday’s match is who is going to start on the backline. Nouhou has resumed full training with the first team this week, but might still not be fully fit. Arreaga isn’t back from Ecuador’s camp yet because they played on Thursday night. AB Cissoko picked up an injury while playing for Tacoma Defiance, although was all a full participant in training. So, where does that leave us?
All of this seems to suggest we’ll likely see Josh Atencio slide back into defense to join Yeimar Gomez Andrade and Shane O’Neil.