Ominous clouds threatened Minneapolis as the MLS reigning champions Seattle Sounders came to town. The Target Fan Zone was loud with music while fans ate free food, got their faces painted, and competed in freestyle soccer.
Coming off Minnesota’s first win since the June 21 victory over Portland, the Loons hoped to maintain momentum against the visiting Sounders. Seattle, meanwhile, had won three of its last four. A 0-0 draw with the LA Galaxy was the exception, and was also the first time in four games the Sounders failed to score three goals.
A victory for the away team would mean moving to second place in the Western Conference standings, trailing Sporting KC by two points and FC Dallas on goal differential.
The Sounders’ fan section was full by 5:55 PM; the Sounders’ popularity meant there was a healthy contingent of away fans present. At 5:57, rain began to fall on the stadium. Ponchos, rain jackets, and sheer will fended off the chill as fans waited for the match to begin. As the rain fell in sheets, the “Wonderwall” (the MNUFC Supporters’ section) filled.
Reports came that popular pre-match gathering places like Surly Brewery were full to capacity, with new entries being limited. The home team tweeted at 5:07 PM that there were fewer than 100 seats still available for the match. 22,649 fans crowded into TCF Bank Stadium to see the match. In short: the table was set for an energetic and atmospheric match.
Minnesota head coach Adrian Heath was forced to make due without forward Christian Ramirez, who was recovering from a hamstring tweak sustained during Minnesota’s 4-0 win over D.C. United. Abu Danladi took his place at the tip of the spear for United. In Danladi’s place on the right wing was Miguel Ibarra. Recent signings Michael Boxall and Sam Nicholson continued to start for Minnesota, in central defense and left wing, respectively.
— Minnesota United FC (@MNUFC) August 5, 2017
Seattle head coach Brian Schmetzer also made only one change, bringing Joevin Jones in at left back for Nouhou Tolo. Will Bruin led the attack, flanked by Jordan Morris on the left and Nicolás Lodeiro on the right, with Clint Dempsey slotting into the hole behind Bruin.
— Seattle Sounders FC (@SoundersFC) August 5, 2017
This match was United’s first experience with Video Assistant Referee (VAR), implemented by MLS effective on August 5. Both MLS and Minnesota United put out an explanation of the new methodology. We at FiftyFive.One wrote previously on the shortcomings of VAR, which was used to mixed reviews at the Confederation Cup in Russia.
With the skies clearing, the teams kicked off the Loons’ last home match till September.
The game started quickly, with Danladi rising a shot over the cross bar in the first minute. The first big chance of the match came shortly after. Lodeiro ran down the left side of Minnesota’s penalty box and whipped a cross to Bruin, who couldn’t deflect on target. Seattle came close again in the seventh minute, when Lodeiro dribbled through United’s defense but put his shot wide.
The high pace continued; 30 seconds later Kevin Molino headed a shot wide on an early cross from Ismaila Jome. Seattle capitalized early, in the 10th minute. Dempsey dribbled down the center of the pitch and slotted a through ball to Bruin, who passed the ball into the net past Bobby Shuttleworth.
Loons fans thought they had equalized in the 13th minute when Danladi was released by Molino, but the goal was called back for offside. The call was questionable, but the play was not reviewable, as it did not fall into one of the four categories needed to qualify for VAR.
Seattle doubled its lead in the 18th minute off a corner kick. A long pass from Gustav Svensson found the head of Chad Marshall, who laid it off to Dempsey. After a promising start for the Loons, the home team found itself down by two just 20 minutes in.
With two in the bag, Seattle began to sit back in defense more and play for a counterattack. This led to more offensive pressure for Minnesota United. With Seattle compact defensively, United was unable to get a shot on target, with the exception of speculative efforts from distance.
United controlled the play handily for the remainder of the half, but the best scoring chance went to Seattle, when Morris was stoned by Shuttleworth on a breakaway. In the 45th minute Morris threatened again, heading the ball in, but the goal was called back for offside.
The half ended 2-0 for the visitors, with Minnesota failing to create any shots on goal after Seattle’s second goal. This despite several moments of danger; the Sounders defense was just too quick to clear and close down United attackers.
Seattle started the second half with offensive pressure. United struggled to get the ball out of its defensive third, with several moments of danger. Whereas Minnesota had controlled the final 25 minutes of the first half, Seattle dominated the early parts of the second half. Minnesota’s first moment of danger came when Danladi was released alone, but Stefan Frei made a reaction kick save.
Minnesota was able to claw its way back into the match through Danladi. The youngster went to ground trying to find a way around Marshall, but Rivero waved away any call for a penalty kick. He rose to meet a cross from Molino, but the header was well high of the goal. Minnesota continued to search for a shot on target.
Looking to find an offensive spark, Heath made his first substitution in the 68th minute, bringing Johan Venegas on for Miguel Ibarra.
With the Loons toothless, Morris added the Sounders’ third goal in the 71st minute. While there was a defender nearby, Morris nutmegged Shuttleworth for the goal. Just two minutes later, United let in another. Dempsey dribbled around Cronin near the penalty spot and sent a hard shot past Shuttleworth for his second of the game.
Down four to zero, Heath waited till the 80th minute to make a second substitution, bringing Collin Martin on for Ibson. Seattle continued to control the game, and Minnesota continued to fail to create any dangerous attacks.
In the 90th+1 minute United faithful thought again that Danladi had scored. His goal was again called back for offside.
As Frei took the free kick, referee Jose Carlos Rivero blew full time, with United’s second consecutive match ending in a 4-0 scoreline. After a promising start that ended with the Loons falling behind by 2 goals, Minnesota was unable to generate truly dangerous chances and incapable of finding a shot on target.
After the high of a 4-0 win last week, a loss of the same margin leaves a bad taste in the mouths of supporters, particularly given that the Loons’ next home game is over a month away.
Speaking after the match, Heath attributed Seattle’s success to their pace and Minnesota’s inability to defend its box. He also said he was more pleased with the team’s play than he had been against the New York Red Bulls (a game that ended in a 3-0 loss for the Loons).
United has 15 days till its next match, the reverse fixture in Seattle. It will need to sort out a solution to the Sounders defense and a defense to the combination of Morris, Dempsey, and Lodeiro.
— FiftyFiveOne (@FiftyFiveOne) August 6, 2017
Minnesota United 0 – 4 Seattle Sounders
Stadium: TCF Bank Stadium
Kickoff: 7:00 PM (CDT)
Weather: 65°, Overcast
Will Bruin (9’)
Clint Dempsey (18’)
Jordan Morris (71’)
Clint Dempsey (73’)
Sam Cronin (84’, Unsporting Behavior)
— FiftyFiveOne (@FiftyFiveOne) August 6, 2017
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