The Seattle Sounders defeated Minnesota United 1-0 on Saturday night in what will almost certainly be a forgettable contest between two teams with different ambitions this season. The Loons were tough to break down but really lacked any attacking threat, while the Sounders were methodical in their approach even without key starters. Here are five things we saw on Saturday night.
Rusnák runs the show
A week after the Sounders sorely missed Albert Rusnák, he showed up against the Loons and absolutely balled out. He got his first goal of the season to win the game, and that will obviously receive most of the attention, but so much about what makes Rusnák so great often doesn’t show up in the stats.
Something that was apparent against Minnesota United that the Sounders lacked against Portland last week was Rusnák holding the shape together in attacking phases. He was nominally playing “right midfield” for most of the game, but while Seattle was attacking he’d take up a position not dissimilar to when he starts in the center, except on the right side of the field instead of the left. Him taking up these types of positions allows for the Sounders to have a much more balanced shape and attack. It’s no surprise that Obed Vargas had a much better game with Rusnák on the field.
Lumen is a fortress
The Sounders recorded their fifth consecutive home shutout on Saturday night, which is a new club record. One of Brian Schmetzer’s biggest messages early in the preseason was that the club needed to make Lumen Field a fortress once more. Losing out on precious home points was a costly problem last season, and the team felt it was too easy for opponents to come into Lumen and play well.
Early signs point toward a shifting tide — 450 minutes of shutout soccer, while going 4-0-1 in that span. Pretty good start.
1-0 wins have been rare
On September 11th, 2021 the Sounders defeated Minnesota United by a score line of 1-0. Coming into Saturday, the Sounders had participated in 11 matches since that time which ended with the same scoreline, but had only won two. In the same number of 1-0 matches prior to that 2021 win, the Sounders had won nine. Good teams typically win matches they don’t play well in, and a 1-0 scoreline often reflects that. If the Sounders want to win silverware this season, they’d do well to see out a few more 1-0 matches, unlike what happened last week against Portland.
Showcase in depth
The Sounders were forced to rotate pretty heavily on Saturday night due to international call-ups, injuries, and illness. Josh Atencio, Jordan Morris, Cristian Roldan, Raul Ruidiaz, and Nouhou were all missing from the starting lineup. Only Jordan Morris would eventually make the bench and play against Minnesota. Kelyn Rowe performed well at LB after Nouhou was a late scratch due to illness. Vargas looked much more comfortable in his second start of the season. Even the bench was able to contribute, with Fredy Montero picking up a very lovely assist for the winner.
The right subs for the right moment
Last week’s debacle against the Timbers can basically be pinpointed to the moment Leo Chu subbed off for Heber and the Sounders shifted their formation. This week, against Minnesota, you can pinpoint the win at the moment the Sounders made their game-changing subs. Well, sort of.
Morris and Montero subbed on for Vargas and Héber in the 66th minute, but the big change actually happened 10 minutes before that with all of the starters on the field. Vargas and Rusnák had swapped positions early in the second half to set up a bit of a different shape for the Sounders. Particularly, it put Rusnák in central and deeper locations on the field, ones that he took advantage of in the lead-up to his goal. If those changes didn’t happen, Rusnák is probably in a different area of the pitch for the throw-in that led to Seattle’s goal.
You do in fact win some and you do in fact lose some.