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Postgame Pontifications: Georgi Minoungou was rare bright spot

Sounders winger showed a constant willingness to attack in an otherwise dreary performance.

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3 min read
Photo courtesy of Sounders FC Communications

In the midst of their first extended stretch of decent results, it seemed like the Seattle Sounders were poised to finally turn things around at the awfully named America First Field. Instead, they turned in what can best be descried as yet another forgettable performance. Their 2-0 loss extended their winless streak on the road against Real Salt Lake to 13 games (0-10-3).

Disappointing as the performance was — a second half in which the Sounders were out shot 11-1 was particularly dire — I’m still reluctant to take too much away from it. The Sounders were playing on just two days’ rest and as a result had to heavily rotate their lineup. There were six changes from Sunday’s win over the Portland Timbers, and no one who started both games looked particularly effective.

That’s not to wipe away any criticisms. I’m definitely getting worried about João Paulo’s relative lack of mobility; Albert Rusnák had another game where he wasn’t as goal-dangerous as he needs to be; and both goals came off counter-attacks where numerous players were out of position and/or beaten badly in 1v1 situations.

I don’t want to overreact to any of that, though, and feel like we can put off some of those discussions at least until we see how things shake out in Saturday's game against the Vancouver Whitecaps.

Right now, I’m inclined to look a bit more closely at one performance that seemed mostly positive against RSL: Georgi Minoungou.

If you’ve been paying attention to Tacoma Defiance, Minoungou probably isn’t a new name. The Ivory Coast native first joined the Defiance on loan in 2022 and immediately impressed with his athleticism, adding two goals and five assists along the way.

The Sounders were impressed enough that they completed his transfer and brought him into first-team preseason in 2023. But after some promising performances, he was sidelined with an eye issue. He was able to return in time to make 21 appearances and log more than 1,000 minutes for Tacoma, albeit wearing protective goggles. He finished with four assists.

Minoungou was with the Sounders again this most recent preseason, and has looked a bit closer to his pre-injury self.

After playing about five minutes late in the LA Galaxy tie — during which he looked dangerous — Minoungou got his biggest opportunity yet with a start against RSL. The idea behind the start was pretty straightforward: With Minoungou on one side and Léo Chú on the other, the Sounders would look for opportunities to get their wingers isolated in transition.

Unfortunately those plans were thrown into chaos about 20 minutes in when Chú picked up an injury and eventually had to come off. He was replaced by the decidedly less pacy Paul Rothrock, which left Minoungou to do most of the field-stretching on his own.

For the most part, he still looked pretty dangerous. Whenever he was isolated on right back Philip Quinton, he looked to attack. Minoungou ended up attempting nine dribbles — the most of any Sounders player this year — with five them successful. He was also willing to take on defenders even when he wasn’t 1v1.

By the second half, RSL realized that Quinton probably shouldn’t be allowed to defend Minoungou in space all by himself and they started to double team him whenever he had the ball on the wing. Early in the second half, that help was provided by Matt Crooks.

Undeterred, Minoungou split the defenders to give himself an open look on goal. Although it could be plausibly argued that he had Paul Rothrock open near the penalty spot, Minoungou saw an opportunity and went at goal. If not for the shot taking a slight deflection off the defender, he’d have likely been rewarded with his first MLS goal.

In a season where genuine excitement has been in relatively short supply, Minoungou’s aggressive style has been a rare jolt of electricity.

How much more we’ll get to see him this year with the Sounders, though, is not as entirely straightforward as the desire to give him minutes.

This being Minoungou’s second MLS appearance, he can no longer play in any league games without signing a full first-team contract. He is, however, still permitted to be signed to two more short-term loans and play in competitions like the U.S. Open Cup or Leagues Cup.

Most likely, the Sounders will wait to see how he does with those opportunities before making a long-term decision. Minoungou’s situation is further complicated by the fact that he’d take up one of the Sounders’ two remaining international spots, and since they paid a transfer fee for him, he’d also carry a slightly larger-than-normal salary cap hit.

Those considerations aside, Minoungou clearly has gotten head coach Brian Schmetzer’s attention.

“We’ll see how that shakes out,” Schmetzer said. “Georgi has played his way into a question about signing him for the year. … He’s got another chance to do something in Open Cup.”