Ahead of Sunday's fixture between the Seattle Sounders and Minnesota United, we spoke with Northland Soccer Journal's Bridget McDowell to get a better idea of what is going on in Loons Land. You can read the reverse questions here.
SaH: The Loons had a pretty difficult start to the year, but have seemingly turned it around and are currently just short of a playoff spot. What's the secret to the change?
NSJ: Reynoso's return gave the Loons some much-neededof goals and ideas but the most noticeable change has been their attitude on the pitch. After months of frustration and "Fine, I'll go" type attitudes from a number of players, this is a group of guys playing for the squad again and having fun doing it. There's still plenty frustration, as evidenced by the yellow and red cards accumulated over the last couple of less-than-ideal months, but something has shifted. They're having fun and when they have fun, the results follow.
SaH: Minnesota United has a less-than-ideal record against Seattle. What would a win on Sunday mean to fans?
NSJ: It would be massive. A win at home will go a long way in easing the fans' frustration with how Minnesota's Leagues Cup run ended. If that win comes against Seattle, it would also exorcise the demons from that postseason collapse in 2020. Three points taken from any top-five club are huge but if they're taken from Seattle, that's a sweeter win.
SaH: Did the Loons make any moves in the summer transfer window? What have those signings changed about the team?
NSJ: Teemu Pukki came in as the new 9 and scored in his first start (second appearance), a 3-0 win in Houston. He has not scored in two MLS games since, or through the Leagues Cup, but his style doesn't quite match the holding forward role he's been thrust into with Reynoso and Hlongwane. Pukki needs a breakthrough goal or a few more assists to boost his confidence.
Leftback Ethan Bristow was the other summer acquisition. He wasn't meant to be a quick fix, more of a long-term depth piece, but he was tossed into the fire during Leagues Cup and has also struggled to find his footing and chemistry with the backline. Of course he shouldn't have been out into those situations in the first place.
Pukki and Bristow are bookends in a squad that is still figuring itself out.