Tonight, is the MLS Western Conference Final between the Seattle Sounders and Minnesota United at Lumen Field in Seattle, Washington. There’s a lot on the line for both clubs who are eager to advance to MLS Cup Final for very different reasons. For the Seattle Sounders it’s their fourth trip to a Western Conference Final in the last five years. The team has gone to unparalleled success and has the honor of holding one of the longest active playoff streaks in professional sports. Brian Schmetzer has taken the Sounders to even further heights since he became the head coach midway through 2016. For Minnesota United to defeat the reigning MLS Cup Champions, would send them through to their first ever MLS Cup Final in only their fourth season. Thus, giving them a huge boost in confidence that they too can compete for an MLS Cup regularly.
How They Got Here
Seattle: Finishing in second place of the Western Conference, the Sounders would first play an out of sorts LAFC in round one of the MLS Cup Playoffs at home. Goals from Nicolas Lodeiro, Jordan Morris, and Raul Ruidiaz would prove too great for LAFC as the Sounders would advance to the Western Conference Semi-Finals a final score of 3-1. They would then go onto play FC Dallas in the Western Conference Semi-Finals at home. FC Dallas would prove more of a challenge to the Sounders. A goal scored off a corner by center back Shane O’Neill in the 49th minute was all the club needed to advance to the Western Conference Final.
Minnesota: Finishing fourth in the Western Conference, many were uncertain how far Minnesota United would go in the playoffs. They would dispatch the Colorado Rapids in the first round of the playoffs at Allianz Field by a score of 3-0. No one would imagine what they would do to first place Sporting Kansas City in the Western Conference Semi-Final. They would stun Sporting KC in their own backyard scoring three goals in the first half to advance to the Western Conference Finals. They may be the underdogs of the west but, Minnesota is currently on a nine-match unbeaten run.
The Big Questions For Tonight
The biggest question for the Seattle Sounders tonight, is the starting eleven Brian Schmetzer puts out. Schmetzer has a full-strength squad available to his disposal. Swedish midfielder Gustav Svensson is medically cleared to pay according to Sounder at Heart and right back Kelvin Leerdam who saw minutes as a substitute in the Western Conference Semi- Final is fully recovered from his hamstring injury. In Leerdam’s place Alex Roldan, Cristian’s younger brother has started in the right back position and has done admirable job. Cristian Roldan has moved from wide right to central midfield in the partnership with João Paulo while Joevin Jones moves to the right winger. Does Schmetzer stick with his lineup he’s used the last two matches that’s gotten the team wins or does he make changes?
The biggest question for Minnesota United tonight isn’t on the field but for the future. Should they get eliminated tonight or go to MLS Cup Final they eventually have to solve their goalkeeping situation. Since the regular season resumed at the end August, primary keeper Tyler Miller went out injured for the remainder of the season with a hip injury. In Miller’s place, 23-year-old Dayne St. Clair has filled in and has made it a good problem for Head Coach Adrian Heath to have of the future. St. Clair has played in 13 regular season matches with 6 shutouts to his name. Do the Loons continue to rely on Miller when he’s recovered or they decide to devote their time in developing St. Clair’s skill as the new primary goalkeeper for the Loons?
Keys To The Match
The key to this match is to score the first goal early. An early goal can set the tone for both the Sounders or Minnesota United. For the Sounders this is more crucial thing to do as the home team. After Sporting KC was completely caught off guard in the first half in the Western Conference Semi-Final with home field advantage, it’s imperative the Sounders don’t suffer similar fate. Sporting KC felt confident in their game plan and felt the goals would come naturally and weren’t expecting the response Minnesota generated. This key is what could determine the course of a season for both teams.