Minnesota United FC vs. Seattle Sounders
2017 MLS Match Preview
TCF Bank Stadium – Minneapolis, Minn.
Saturday, August 5 – 10 pm ET
WATCH: MLS LIVE
Is it time? That's the question around the Seattle Sounders, who – right around this point last year – got themselves on an almighty run of form that propelled the franchise to its first MLS Cup.
And yes, it looks quite a bit like it could indeed be time. Seattle are unbeaten in six and have lost just once in the last two months. It's not quite all clicking perfectly, but things are a lot better entering August than they were over over the season's first three months, during which the Sounders went just 4-6-4.
Minnesota United haven't had quite as monumental a turnaround, but the Loons have largely hovered in the vicinity of "respectability" since mid-April, and last weekend's 4-0 win over D.C. United was their most impressive 90 minutes as an MLS team. They've added a few pieces to the roster in recent weeks, and while their playoff hopes are probably dead, this nonetheless is starting to look like a team that has a clear plan to build for 2018 and beyond.
The centerpieces of that build are two players: striker Christian Ramirez and midfielder Kevin Molino. Both starred in that win over D.C., but the big question is "How will the Loons replace Ramirez this week?" He limped off just before the break against D.C. – and just after scoring his 11th goal – with a hamstring injury that will keep him sidelined this weekend and beyond.
Dealing with injuries has been a season-long issue for MNUFC, but Ramirez has often been around to bail them out with a timely goal.
Two guys who may step into the breach? Rookie forward Abu Danladi, who scored his third MLS goal last week, or on-loan RBNY Homegrown Brandon Allen who, like Ramirez, has been a prolific lower-division striker looking to make the jump up to the top tier.
Regardless of which guy it is in that spot, it will be Molino as the driving creative force in midfield.
- Suspended: None
- International Duty: None
- Injury Report: OUT: M - Bernardo Anor (left lower leg injury); M/D - Thomas de Villardi (left Achilles injury); D - Marc Burch (sports hernia surgery 6/20, out 8-12 weeks); M - Rasmus Schuller (left thigh injury); F - Christian Ramirez (hamstring injury); D - Justin Davis (right foot injury); D - Joseph Greenspan (head)
Projected Starting Lineup (4-2-3-1, left to right): Bobby Shuttleworth – Jerome Thiesson, Brent Kallman, Michael Boxall, Francisco Calvo – Sam Cronin, Ibson – Miguel Ibarra, Kevin Molino, Sam Nicholson – Abu Danladi
Notes: Minnesota have only won four of the 14 games they have played against Western Conference opposition this year (6L-4D) … Molino’s two assists last weekend was the second time he has had multiple assists in a league game this year, and the third time a Minnesota player has had two assists in an MLS game (Ibarra had two assists against Sporting on May 7th).
The Sounders have shook off their early-season hangover, and there's no one clear reason as to how or why. It seems to be a collective ability to play about 10 or 15 percent better than they had been at the start of the year, and that probably comes down to rediscovering their collective urgency. They haven't been a "walk it up the field" team since about the middle of May, and that's paid dividends in terms of their scoring output.
Defensively it's been a mixed bag, but with two straight shutouts and five in their last 11 games, it's pretty clear the mix is starting to trend towards "good."
Now it's incumbent upon head coach Brian Schmetzer to figure out the right attacking mix. Clint Dempsey and Jordan Morris are back from the Gold Cup, Will Bruin has been reliable all year, Joevin Jones has arguably been more effective on the wing than at fullback, Nicolas Lodeiro is Nicolas Lodeiro, and there's another new piece – Spaniard Victor Rodriguez. It's unclear how the 28-year-old, who can play anywhere on the "3" line of the 4-2-3-1 will fit in, but it seems pretty clear Seattle are ready for another stretch run.
- Suspended: None
- Int’l Duty: None
- Injury Report: OUT: M - Osvaldo Alonso (left MCL sprain)
Projected Starting XI (4-2-3-1, left to right): Stefan Frei – Kelvin Leerdam, Roman Torres, Chad Marshall, Joevin Jones – Cristian Roldan, Gustav Svensson – Nicolas Lodeiro, Clint Dempsey, Jordan Morris – Will Bruin
Notes: Seattle’s road clean sheet against the Galaxy was just their second in 12 away games this year. They only had one in the 2016 regular season. Only New England (two) and Salt Lake (one) have had fewer regular season road clean sheets across the two seasons amongst the teams that have played in both … In 1,393 minutes with Morris on the field this year, Seattle average 1.1 goals per 90 minutes played. In 693 minutes without him on the field this year, that number goes up to 1.9 goals per 90 minutes played.
Saturday is the first ever meeting between these teams.
- Referee: Jose Carlos Rivero
- Assistant Referees: Jose Da Silva, Adam Garner
- Fourth Official: Baboucarr Jallow
- Video Assistant Referee: Victor Rivas