Nine losses in eleven games.

It’s kind of hard to believe Minnesota’s record against Seattle.

Sure, you could see how it would happen in 2017 and 2018, when the Loons were new and losing to everybody. Seattle winning all four games in those two seasons was almost expected, since the Sounders were beating everyone then, too. And in 2019 the Loons had a home draw and a road loss, which is not an awful record.

But even over the last three years, it’s just kept going. There was the horrifying 2020 Western Conference finals, when the league gave Seattle two extra days of rest so that MNUFC’s semifinal could be on national TV. There was an opening-day 4-0 loss and a September 1-0 loss last year (albeit sandwiched around the only Loons win.)

And for about 80 minutes on Saturday night, Seattle’s 2-1 win simply looked like yet another Sounders beatdown.

For the first ten minutes, Minnesota had a pretty good foothold in the game. The Loons set their press in the hopes of forcing the ball to Seattle’s right center back Jackson Rogen - who ended up being heavily involved in the game in a number of ways. They specifically seemed to want him to play the ball down the right wing, force the Sounders to run their offense through Cristian Roldan, keep Roldan out wide, and keep Seattle from playing through the midfield.

This setup meant that, if they wanted the ball on the left, Seattle had to either try to play 75-yard diagonals to Jordan Morris on the left - right back Alex Roldan tried this twice, and it worked once - or to try to have deep-lying midfielders Joao Paolo and Albert Rusnak actually dribble the ball all the way across the field.

It crossed the Sounders up enough that the Loons got a couple of really excellent transition opportunities, including one shot from Abu Danladi that hit a defender and went off the crossbar. But even as they were earning more opportunities, the Loons’ game as a whole was going off the rails. Said midfielder Wil Trapp:

“It felt like, if we just convert one of these, it’s going to be a good night for us. You saw the impatience come through. We were generating chances. We were coming on a break, and then we’re trying to do it every time. When the game becomes almost like a Final Four basketball game, you get tired and the spaces get bigger, and then you’re running a little bit more. They have good players that get around the ball and their understanding of space is impressive. It almost hurt us slightly, in the sense of, how many chances we were generating off the break because our impatience showed through.”

Like Trapp said, after that initial burst, the Loons started having more trouble getting a foot on the ball, and when the Sounders start coming in waves, eventually they’re going to score. Trapp lost the ball in midfield, Seattle made a couple of extra passes, and Joao Paulo arrived to score yet another thunderbolt against the Loons, hammering a 20-yard blast into the top corner.

Three minutes into the second half, the Sounders doubled their lead. A one-two in midfield sprung Jordan Morris down the left, and Brent Kallman - in scramble mode and trying to block Morris’s cross across the goalmouth - accidentally deflected the ball into his own net. It was an own goal, but it was almost unavoidable; any center back is going to score a few of those in his career, simply out of sheer bad luck.

For the most part, though, the time between Seattle’s opener and Minnesota’s opener was just a stalemate. Adrian Heath made a tactical shift at halftime, inserting midfielder Joseph Rosales in place of Danladi on the left wing, specifically to try to get an extra player into the midfield. “We had to get another body in there to get us a foothold in the game,” said Heath. “We could keep three players higher up the field. The line of confrontation was a lot closer to their goal, and they were under more pressure, so they didn’t have as much time to pick the pass.”

All was quiet until the 81st minute, when Rosales - who played a big role in driving the offense forward in the second half - exchanged a one-two with Robin Lod to burst into the penalty area. He lost the ball, but an awkward challenge from Rogen turned into a body-check, and referee Ismail Elfath pointed to the spot. Emanuel Reynoso converted the penalty.

It made the game 2-1; it also made the game total chaos.

The Sounders, reduced to playing to hold onto three points, began to fall apart defensively, to the point that at one point I was counting defenders just to make sure I hadn’t missed two players getting sent off or something. Lod flicked a corner on, and Michael Boxall didn’t make good contact on a header that was cleared off the line. Seconds later, a deflection fell to Lod on the penalty spot, but his shot through traffic was too near to Stefan Frei.

90 seconds later, a harmless Kemar Lawrence cross caused a mix-up between Frei and Rogen. The two collided, the ball fell to Luis Amarilla, but the striker somehow poked the ball wide of the post. And in stoppage time, Bongokuhle Hlongwane had a difficult chance that he skied to the top of the south stands.

“At the end of the game, we’re pushing,” said Trapp. “That’s more of what we are as a team, and what we need to bring out from the beginning. Getting punched in the mouth and then having to come back only gets you so far.”

The final ten minutes turned what seemed like a beatdown into a classic “how did the Loons not end up with at least a point” game. That said, though, a loss at home is a loss at home, no matter how good Seattle is. The Sounders may be one of the top teams in the league, and they may be “one of the most storied franchises in MLS,” as Heath said. But the Loons want to be recognized as one of the league’s top teams too, and you don’t get there by losing at home, to anyone.

Heath chose to look on the bright side. “We’re talking about a team that’s in the semi-final of the Champions League,” he said. “They’re just a really good team, and every time that you play a really good team, if you don’t play well - which we didn’t in the first half - it’s gonna be difficult. Tonight was difficult for us. Second half, I thought there were a lot of positives.”

Trapp was less philosophical. “They’re a team that, at times, has our number,” he said, “and we don’t like that.”


  • Other than Chase Gasper and Patrick Weah, who are out indefinitely, the only player who was held out of the 20-man squad through injury was Romain Métanire. Kervin Arriaga also did not make the squad, simply because he wasn’t back in time from national-team duty, something Heath was frustrated with. “This week hasn’t been easy with people away, international duty, you don’t know who’s coming back. Like [Seattle head coach Brian Schmetzer] was saying the other day, it’s difficult. The guys go away for two weeks, and you get them back a day before the next game, which is ridiculous.”
  • Heath was optimistic about next Sunday’s lineup at Austin. “Hopefully Romain will be available for selection by next week as well, which will help,” he said. “We’ll have some big decisions to make, but I’m just pleased to get a few of the guys back. Fragapane trained the last couple of days, so I would think by the middle of next week, hopefully, we’ll have a full complement to play and pick from.”
  • Danladi’s start on the left wing was his first of the season. Kemar Lawrence made his first appearance as a Loon as a second-half substitute.