First and foremost, the Loons lineup looked slightly different today. A friendly face reappeared between the sticks to start the match, with Bobby Shuttleworth manning the net. The goalkeeper made his first appearance in all competitions in 2018, after falling out of favor to Matt Lampson who was acquired back in January from the Chicago Fire. Bobby was not the only fresh face for the Loons in the starting lineup, as rookie fullback, Carter Manley, got the start in place of Marc Burch - who is out with a calf injury. Accompanying those two on the pitch were nine other familiar faces we’ve seen in 2018.
On the opposing side of the field, Ozzie Alonso made his first start of 2018 for the Sounders, while Kelvin Leerdam returned to the starting XI. Along with those two, Victor Rodriguez returned to the bench; all three players were integral to the Sounders 2017 season but were ruled out with injuries in 2018. The rest of the starting XI can be seen below.
To begin the game, Seattle rallied with momentum, earning a corner kick inside the first minute. Roman Torres's header went over the bar, and play resumed through a goal kick by Bobby Shuttleworth. The first 10 minutes showed little flurries of counter from each sides, but possession was about 50/50. Rookie Alex Roldan had the best opportunity early on, but a volley off a set piece went wide. The rookie is the younger brother of USMNT and fellow Sounder, Christian Roldan. A few minutes later, the Loons had a slight heart attack when Roman Torres again connected off a corner, but again, headed it over. Following that corner, the Sounders stranded 17 passes together ending with a goal from Gustav Svensson. The Swedish international lodged a rocket from the top of the box into the upper left hand corner, a shot that no keeper in the world would have stopped. Simply world-class. Less than two minutes later, Seattle added a second goal from Will Bruin. The United defense was caught napping, specifically CB pairing Francisco Calvo and Michael Boxall. Previously, Calvo had beckoned for national coverage on a level of respect for this club, and he got his national coverage. His performance in the opening 30 minutes did not help his case for earning respect, the defender was beaten 4 times in five minutes. In the 32nd minute, the Loons proceeded to start playing soccer again, with Danladi making a fantastic run on a through ball. The play ended as a goal kick, but it was something at least. The Loons ended the half on a good note, maintaining possession here and there, while actively communicating across the pitch. The halftime whistle blew, and the Loons headed to the locker room, where I presumably think they were given a strict talking to. That was not a good half of soccer from Minnesota, possibly, one of their worst if not their worst this season. The two goals from Seattle can be seen below, and I would include MNUFC highlights, but there weren’t any.
The two goals came from defensive lapses, and It is one-hundred percent okay to be upset with that first half of soccer. It simply wasn’t good, and as the fans, you deserve more effort from your team. The brightest part of the first half was Quintero, he seemed to be the only one awake in the second half of the field, but there weren’t many moments where the loons were effective in the second half of the field.
As the second half kicked off, Ethan Finlay was subbed off and Sam Nicholson was brought on the field in place of him. In the 52nd minute, Christian Ramirez replaced Abu Danladi up top, going away with the thought of a two-striker system when down two goals (who needs that anyway). Christian came onto the field with only three goals in his last twenty games, a roadblock he was hoping to break. The Loons offense quickly picked up from there, with Miguel Ibarra launching a header into the chest of Stefan Frei from a Jerome Theisson cross. Ramirez instantly brought on a change of attack for the Loons, controlling the hold-up play in the second half of the field while making Torres and Marshall have to move. On the other end of the field, Shuttleworth made two quick saves to keep the Sounders scoreless in the second half. The possession in the first 15 minutes favored Minnesota, but they did not take advantage of it. In the 60th minute, Clint Dempsey entered the game for Seattle after being out for 35 days from a league suspension. Play went on, and the Loons created a fantastic chance in the 63rd minute courtesy of Ramirez and Theisson. The two connected on a fantastic cross, but Stefan Frei gathered after Chad Marshall lost the ball. Two minutes later, a hero from the planet Krypton emerged and put the ball in the back of the net. CHRISTIAN RAMIREZ’S GOAL DROUGHT ENDED! The striker headed the ball into the net after a sublime first touch and cross from Darwin Quintero. That was his second assist in two games, and he has showed what he can bring to our squad.
They say I walk around like got an S on my chest pic.twitter.com/IE6cZ9R0Ck— Minnesota United FC (@MNUFC) April 22, 2018
The goal brought forth a new sense of passion and motivation on the pitch; the Loons had a sense of urgency in their play and they seemed to finally want to play soccer. The next 15 minutes went by extremely fast, and neither team had really registered a constant amount of possession, with the ball going back and forth between both sides. In the 81st minute, Clint Dempsey stepped up to take a free kick just outside the ‘18 for the Sounders, but he booted it over the net. Then, the Loons had their best opportunity of the later part of the second half to tie it up through Francisco Calvo, but his shot hit the side netting. That shot came in the 89th minute, where the Sounders then subbed on Jordy Delem, who scored the heart-breaker in 90+4. The Loons got caught in possession and the Sounders countered through Dempsey who played the through ball to Delem who slotted the ball in. The goal was avoidable, but sloppy play led to a sloppy goal.
FT: 3-1 Seattle
That was all the story had to tell, the ref blew the final whistle at the reset following the goal. The Seattle Sounders earned their first win of 2018 while Minnesota’s losing streak extends to 4 games. Honestly? An inexcusable loss in my eyes, this was a game where three points was entirely possible, and the Loons did not pounce on it. Seattle did not score their first goal of 2018 until last week, and we let them slide home three goals today. From a defensive standpoint, that is not okay. We need to do better, and we need to play better. The Loons could have easily obtained five points in their last four matches, but underwhelming performances led to 4 straight losses. The Atlanta game was winnable, as was Portland and even today. Adrian Heath keeps seeming to question who he should start up top, and switching between Danladi and Ramirez every other game is not the answer to that problem. You start both, you start one or the other, you pick because you are the manager, but you need to be consistent. The two strikers seem to be lacking confidence in their abilities, and that could easily be in part to the fact that the team sheet in inconsistent as well as their playing time. The Loons played a great second half today, and that was partly due to Christian Ramirez. His hold-up play was phenomenal and Quintero looked so much more comfortable with Ramirez than Danladi up top
There were, however, a few good things from today's match that I do want to talk about. In a sense, my three MNUFC players of the game(excluding Christian, he gets talked about enough).
- Carter Manley: The rookie fullback played his role promisingly and I honestly think that he is not to blame for the defensive lapses that led to goals in the first half. He did exactly what he was supposed to do, and he even moved into the attack on occasion and his pace showed brightly in the second half.
- Darwin Quintero: The Loons first Designated Player has had a lot to do with goals in his first two games. Two assists accompanied by a goal is an extremely strong start for someone who has never played in MLS. The attacking-minded player is going to bring a new found dimension to our side, and I am truly excited to see how he pans out.
- Bobby Shuttleworth: Did he have a clean sheet? nope. Did he have his best game as a Loon? probably not. I do want to bring him in the spotlight though, he had two magnificent quick saves in a row in the middle of the second half which inevitably kept us in the game. The keeper’s voice could be heard on television, guiding his players back ad forth across the pitch; with an overall better defensive performance in the 2nd half I can’t help but think that he played a major role in that. I am glad to see him back, and I hope we see him again next week.
The Loons next game is on the 28th against the Houston Dynamo. The squad returns home and I fully expect three points in front of the home crowd, anything less is unacceptable. Lastly, thanks for bearing with me through over 1600 words of recap, today was fun. As always, COYL.