SEATTLE — The Seattle Sounders kept hold of their place atop the Western Conference with a 1-0 win against the visiting Minnesota United. With 45 points through 23 games they restored a three-point lead ahead of Colorado Rapids who drew LA Galaxy earlier in the afternoon.
The Sounders went into halftime with a 1-0 lead, courtesy of João Paulo’s second goal of the season — both of which have come against Minnesota. Some slick play from Nico Lodeiro put Nicolas Benezet inside the penalty area with the ball at his feet. His cutback pass found João Paulo at the top of the box, and his shot went in off the post. Some excellent work by Tyler Miller earlier in the half and a wasteful shot from a clear look at goal from Benezet prevented Seattle from taking a more commanding lead in the opening 45 minutes.
Minnesota put plenty of pressure on Seattle, especially in the second half when the Sounders only managed three shots to Minnesota’s seven, but the return of Stefan Frei and a defense that bent but didn’t break proved enough to send the Loons home unhappy and empty-handed. The Sounders are back in action on Tuesday when they host Santos Laguna in Leagues Cup, then they head to face Real Salt Lake next Saturday.
3’ — Nico Lodeiro lines up a free kick from the right corner of Minnesota’s penalty area and sends it destined for side netting at the near post, but Tyler Miller is able to paw it away.
11’ — Jimmy Medranda gets on the end of a ball across the box, but his volley narrowly misses the goal instead finding outside side netting.
22’ — Goal Sounders! Nicolas Benezet finds João Paulo at the top of the box with a cutback, and JP beats Miller to the far post to give the Sounders the lead. 1-0
41’ — A flick-on by Will Bruin sends Benezet through the defense and in on goal, but his shot goes wide of goal.
69’ — Will Bruin gets a good look at goal off of a ball across the box from Brad Smith after some slick play between him and Cristian Roldan, but Bruin’s shot is high and wide.
72’ — Nouhou makes a great defensive run and puts an inch-perfect slide tackle on Ethan Finlay that breaks up a promising attack.
90’+1 — Shane O’Neill makes a sliding tackle inside the Sounders penalty area to put the ball out for a throw and stop a Minnesota attack.
João Paulo hates Loons: With his game-winner today João Paulo has two goals this season. His first of the season was also a game-winner, the first of four goals for the Sounders when they hosted Minnesota United to open the season back in April. Not only did both goals come against Minnesota, but they came from pretty similar positions as well — only about 10 yards away from each other outside the box of the South end goal. This one may not have been quite as glorious, but it still secured three points and helped to make sure the loss against Portland a couple weeks ago was nothing more than a bump in the road.
Getting back in the game: This game marked a handful of returns for the Sounders. Not only did Alex and Cristian Roldan get back on the field after playing with the El Salvador and United States national teams, respectively, but Stefan Frei and Nouhou also made their long-awaited returns from injury. Nouhou had some rough moments, but also showed flashes of the player who is both cult hero and was playing at a Defender of the Year quality prior to his injury, while Frei immediately slotted back into the starting lineup and brought peace and prosperity through his safe and secure hands. On top of all that, Nico Lodeiro finally looks something like the star we all know that he is, even if he’s not back to his peak just yet.
The Future and the present are one and the same: Josh Atencio captured imaginations in Seattle and around the league in his start turn during the first couple games of the season. An injury forced him off the field for a bit, but since his return he’s continued to put in impressive performances in more limited minutes. Against Minnesota he didn’t necessarily do anything that jumped out at you, but he displayed the kind of quiet competence that makes for a long and successful career. He had some giveaways and missed passes, but they were far from errant balls and never put the team in a bad position. His 83% passing was solid, as has become standard for him, and he pitched in a couple tackles, but no one on the field had more recoveries than Atencio’s tidy dozen. Josh Atencio is the future of Seattle’s midfield, and that’s a good thing.
Did you see that?!?
What’s not to love about a Nico to Nico to JP goal?
He said what?!?
Schmetzer on addressing the home form with the team prior to the match: If you don’t address issues that come up, you can’t solve them … you’re not growing as a group or an individual— Sounder At Heart (@sounderatheart) September 11, 2021
One stat to tell the tale
66 days — The Sounders hadn’t won an MLS game at Lumen Field in 66 days, their last win coming on July 7 in a 2-0 win over Houston Dynamo.
Man of the match