It’s been a fairly obvious struggle for Minnesota United over the last two seasons.
The Loons seemingly cannot score on set pieces. Going against the grain — in the best possible way — United found a goal on a free kick service from Jan Greguš that Ike Opara headed home.
“If you put it in the right area and you’ve got size and you want to go and try and head it, go and try and attack the ball, show a little bit of determination on the end of it, like Ike [Opara] did for the goal, you know. We looked dangerous again on some of the set pieces tonight,” said manager Adrian Heath.
“We talked about it so the service was there for the most part all night,” said Opara. “We had a couple opportunities and luckily I got one.”
Opara was in discomfort after scoring, crouching in pain instead of celebrating. After connecting with the ball, he whacked his nose on Seattle defender Chad Marshall’s head. “It’s a hard head from Chad,” Opara joked. “This one hut so bad. No man can celebrate through it ... it hurt.”
Seattle’s Cristian Roldan equalized in stunning fashion late in the first half, sending a screamer inside the post from well outside the penalty area. “I saw it bouncing my way. I don’t really shoot those, usually I take a touch and end up passing it but today I was feeling lucky and you know it bounced right my way, I closed my eyes and shot as hard as I could,” explained Roldan to reporters. “It felt good right as I kicked it.”
The goal was a frustrating one for the Loons to concede, having managed to successfully clear the ball, only for it to go rocketing right back into the net. “It’s a great strike from Roldan,” admitted Heath. “Sometimes you have to hold your hand up. Probably could have done a little bit better before ... but hey, it is what it is”
The shot posed a challenge for Minnesota goalkeeper Vito Mannone. “It’s difficult — I want to watch it again,” he said. “It’s coming through bodies, similar to the save [I made] last week ... The ball was going away and away from me. I want to watch it again. I should touch it [with my] fingertips but I’m at full stretch ... At the end of the day, he hit it sweetly.”
Headed into the match, there was a large degree of uncertainty regarding the shape and composition of the Sounders attack. Ultimately, Jordan Morris started up top, but Will Bruin and Raul Ruidiaz both came on as substitutes.
“I had to study all the strikers because we didn’t know what was going to happen,” explained Mannone. “They picked some different players and the shape was played differently. We didn’t know what was going to happen but we saw the formation and went from there. I thought we did okay, but it was a scare at the end.”
Part of that late scare saw two shots from Seattle hit the woodwork in quick succession. “It happens,” said Mannone.
Opara saw the break as a positive turn of fate. “Vito’s gotta kiss the post because today we got lucky,” he cracked.
Nearly the entire narrative headed into the match surrounded Minnesota midfielder Ozzie Alonso facing his longtime club, but there was another reunion in play. Opara matched up with Saad Abdul-Salaam, who started at right back for the Sounders. The two were close when they played together with Sporting Kansas City.
“It’s always fun playing against old teammates,” Abdul-Salaam told reporters. “Ike Opara, that’s kind of like a mentor for me from Kansas City, I was his roommate so it’s really cool playing against him and marking him on set pieces.”
Announced attendance was 19,832, a sell-out ... Heath said that Darwin Quintero is “fully fit” but needs time to settle into his old form ... The Loons have yet to lose at Allianz Field, having picked up one win and three draws ... Minnesota travels to Chicago next weekend, where they’ll face former captain Francisco Calvo, who was traded to the Fire on Friday ... The Fire drew 0-0 with hot LAFC on Saturday.