Minnesota United’s nemesis remains the Seattle Sounders.
The Loons were seeking payback for their gut-wrenching loss to the Sounders in the Western Conference final last December, but instead Seattle stormed to a 4-0 win in the season opener Friday night at Lumen Field in Seattle.
The Loons fell to 0-7-1 in MLS play against Seattle, with the one draw coming at Allianz Field in 2019. Across the series, Seattle has outscored Minnesota 12-2 in the final 29 minutes of all games.
Minnesota sought a fresh start to last year’s sour finish but will have nightmares about how Friday’s game got away that will remind players and coaches of their playoff collapse.
It also comes after the Loons had received preseason praise as one of top teams in MLS — and ahead of Seattle, in pundits’ eyes. The Sounders, with two MLS Cups and two other final appearances in past five years, showed the hierarchy doesn’t yet go through St. Paul.
The Loons looked hungrier and stronger with a high-press in the first half but didn’t have anything to show for it.
Joao Paulo put Seattle up 1-0 in the 49th minute. After Minnesota couldn’t clear the ball out of its defensive third, Paulo ripped a shot from about 30 yards out. FS1 commentator John Strong said the expected goals stat from that spot was .03, meaning there was a 3 percent chance that becomes a goal.
Raul Ruidiaz scored goals in the 70th and 73rd minutes, and Freddy Montero came in to twist the knife with a goal in the 86th. There were much higher probabilities of scoring on those latter chances.
Despite the stunner, Minnesota nearly responded two minutes later when Emanuel Reynoso’s free kick connected with Brent Kallman’s head, but Seattle midfielder Cristian Roldan’s foot saved it off the line.
In the 27th minute, Wil Trapp, making his debut for the Loons, was called for a handball in the box and Ruidiaz was awarded a penalty.
United goalkeeper Dayne St. Clair, who won the job over a healthy Tyler Miller, dove to his right and smacked the ball away with his left hand to deny the chance.
“C’mon!” St. Clair screamed as Kallman came up to celebrate.
In the 36th, Reynoso’s vision and a smart run from Robin Lod freed Lod just outside the 6-yard box, but Lod’s shot hit square off the post.
Loons manager Adrian Heath’s biggest starting XI decisions were, in part, coming from a domino effect. With new striker Ramon Abila not ready to start, winger Lod moved to the top of the attack. Without outside-the-organization reinforcements on the roster just yet and newcomer Niko Hansen injured, central midfielder Hassani Dotson was plugged in at left wing.
The Sounders didn’t miss key midfielder Nico Lodeiro, who is dealing with an injury, and Jordan Morris, who suffered a torn ACL while on loan with Swansea City in England in February.