It was bound to happen.
The Sounders FC’s unbeaten streak had to fall at some point. It probably would’ve wanted a better defense, however.
Midfielder Kelyn Rowe didn’t mark Minnesota United FC midfielder Robin Lod in the box, which opened up a low cross from midfielder Niko Hansen to be poked into goal by Lod in the 81st minute. Sounders keeper Stefan Cleveland was also late to defend the play.
The shot toppled the Loons’ eight-game losing streak against the Sounders and ended Seattle’s 13-match unbeaten streak, which was an MLS record to open a season. Seattle (8-1-5) does stay atop the league standings after the 1-0 loss, but it didn’t offer much comfort Sunday at Allianz Field.
“I saw a player on my right go toward the penalty spot atop of the six (keeper’s box), so I went to follow,” Rowe said of his intentions on the play. “I kind of left that back post, unfortunately. I already held my hand up to Stef and apologized, but it’s something we have to look back at and fix for the next game.”
It was questionable Rowe would be able to make any runs in the match. He suffered from flu-like symptoms last week and needed IV treatment before Sunday’s match.
“It was just to get him enough fluids in his body because he hadn’t eaten as well as he could,” Sounders coach Brian Schmetzer said of Rowe. “The doctors did a good job and he did a good job to gut out 90 minutes.”
Minnesota (5-5-3) opened the season with a 4-0 loss to Seattle at Lumen Field, which morphed into a four-game losing streak. Paired with last season’s Western Conference championship match loss to Seattle and hot tempers to equal the searing temperature at Allianz Field for the afternoon match were expected.
Hard tackles resulted in early yellow cards for midfielder Danny Leyva (13th minute) and Yeimar Gomez Andrade (18th minute). In the second half, MLS rookie AB Cissoko and Minnesota coach Adrian Heath had a long confrontation that turned into on-field arguments between players that had to be broken up.
“Emotions were running high, especially late in the second half,” Cleveland said. “The smallest thing can kind of throw somebody on edge. For us as players, it doesn’t matter what it is, if you’re not that player (that’s upset), you’ve got to reel that other player in. That’s what being a team is. One guy is going to lose his head, it happens. It’s 10 guys’ responsibility to pull him back. That’s what we were doing, especially a young player like AB who has stepped in and played very well for us.”
Schmetzer said he was handling the situation with Heath and Cissoko, calling it “perfectly fine, he’s a nice young man.”
Once Seattle settled into how referee Alan Kelly was going to call the match in the opening half, there were some quality series for the Rave Green. But Minnesota keeper Tyler Miller, who began his pro career with the Sounders in 2016, made three clutch saves to send the teams into the break goalless.
Sounders striker Raul Ruidiaz had attempts outside the box in the 25th and 45th minute that Miller showed skill in saving. Midfielder Jimmy Medranda had a pretty left-footed shot in the box corralled by Miller.
Loons midfielder Emanuel Reynoso whiffed a chance in the 30th minute when an attempt aimed at the upper right corner on a free kick skimmed over the cross bar. He looked to have a wide-open header in the 37th minute but misjudged his jump to connect with the ball.
In the second half, Sounders defender Xavier Arreaga looked to score in the 75th minute but the run for the header off Joao Paulo’s free kick was ruled offside.
“Every goal is a frustrating one to give up,” Cleveland said. “Especially with defending so well and keeping so tight. We had a few opportunities and if we get those, it’s a different game. Xavi isn’t offside, it’s a different game. It was whoever scored first in that game was going to have a massive advantage. Unfortunately it was them.”
The Sounders traveled with five teenagers to play Minnesota due to seven injuries and brothers Alex and Cristian Roldan competing in the CONCACAF Gold Cup for El Salvador and the U.S., respectively.
Seattle’s roster included 15-year-old midfielder Obed Vargas and forward Samuel Adeniran, 22. The Sounders’ injured list qualified it for the league’s extreme hardship rule, Vargas and Adeniran on a short-term loan from USL side Tacoma Defiance.
Despite the mass of absent first-choice players, Schmetzer was only forced to make one starting lineup change. He shifted Rowe to Alex’s position as the right wingback and returned veteran Brad Smith to the starting lineup on the left side. Medranda and Leyva adjusted to flank Joao Paulo in the midfield.
Before departing Seattle for the Minnesota match, Nouhou was projected to make the trip. Schmetzer wasn’t clear whether the defender had a setback in recovering from his left adductor sprain. The club will be off Monday and Nouhou will be evaluated to see if he can be available at Austin FC on Thursday.
The expansion club managed a goalless draw against Seattle at Lumen Field in May.
Nouhou’s return would be ideal. Arreaga was shown a yellow card in the 64th minute and will be suspended for the Austin match due to accumulation.
“Next man is going to step up,” Schmetzer said of the constant lineup juggling. “(Q2 Stadium) is a hard place to play and is our first time there. But that (Sounders) group is pretty determined to push past this game. They were pretty fired up in the locker room after the game.”