Nico and Raul work back into shape
The time is here. Raúl Ruidíaz and Nico Lodeiro are fit and traveled to Minnesota with the squad. It’s probably too early to see either of them start, especially given that there’s a huge Concacaf Champions League semifinal on Wednesday. However, a decent chunk of minutes in the second half of the Loons would help them gain rhythm. One potential wrinkle is the state of the field, which Brian Schmetzer recently called poor and that could impact how much playing time they receive.
Minutes for Medranda
In the same vein as Nico and Raul, we haven’t seen Jimmy Medranda in a matchday squad yet so far this season. but he’s also fit and traveling to Minnesota. Medranda is obviously not as crucial of a player as Lodeiro or Ruidiaz, but the Sounders have lacked natural options at LB and LWB when Nouhou isn’t able to play (he’s suspended for Wednesday). Kelyn Rowe, as ever, has filled in admirably when needed. Medranda gives the Sounders an offensive-minded LB/LWB sub option should they need it.
Loons’ attack more than just Reynoso
For the last few years, Minnesota has been buoyed by the fact that Emmanuel Reynoso is very, very good. The old playbook against MNUFC used to be: Stop Reynoso; Stop Minnesota. It seems like the Loons’ brass has finally done a decent job of getting him some attacking help so it’s no longer a one-man show in Minnesota. Robin Lod has been on the team for awhile and seemingly came out of his shell last season as a bonafide option for the Loons in attack. They’ve always struggled with signing No. 9s, but it finally seems like they’ve landed the guy to do the most important job of putting the ball into the net in Luis Amarilla.
Obviously, Reynoso is important and must be stopped, but the Sounders will have to find ways to stop the other attackers as well.
The young guns can be trusted
The Sounders are only four games into their regular season campaign with the caveat that they’ve played four additional CCL matches. Either way, it’s still very early in the year, but it’s felt like we’ve learned a lot about two first-year players: Jackson Ragen and Obed Vargas. Both of them are likely to start on Saturday in Minnesota and it says a lot about their rise to the top that no one is worried when they see those two names on the team sheet. Making sure the veterans are healthy and ready to go for the match on Wednesday is important, but these two guys can also help the Sounders win on Saturday.
Focus now; look ahead to Wednesday
The players and the coaches will all say the clichés publicly, we know that. They’ll say things like “we have to take it one game at a time” and “focus on the opponent in front of us.” It’s good that they say stuff like that, but we’re a blog here and we can look ahead to what’s on the horizon. The Sounders have a massive opportunity to make history in the CCL and that’s gotta be the early season priority. That doesn’t mean they should just throw away this match against Minnesota. Managing the vibes of the squad is just as important as managing the tactics and players’ minutes. Get the job done in Minnesota and think about New York.