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Minnesota United FC holds on for 1-1 draw with Seattle Sounders

Ike Opara and Cristian Roldan each scored first-half goals in a pulsating 1-1 draw between the Loons and Sounders

ST. PAUL, Minn. — Minnesota United and the Seattle Sounders each found the back of the net in the first half en route to a 1-1 draw Saturday night. It was a game in which both teams saw late chances fail to bare fruit, and each deserved their point on the evening.

For the visitors, it was a third straight draw. For the hosts, it was a third draw in four games at Allianz Field. And the night’s action very much resembled a contest between a pair of MLS sides on pace to be playing soccer in late October. It was also Minnesota’s first result in five meetings against Seattle (5-1-4, 19 points), with Will Bruin’s 97th-minute winner having decided the pair’s last meeting in Minnesota on Aug. 4, 2018.

The specter of Bruin’s goal was still haunting the air in the Land of 10,000 Lakes when he was subbed on in the 60th minute.

“Well, we thought about it,” admitted MNUFC coach Adrian Heath. “He comes on, he’s ready to play. He’s a big body. He’s got a goal record. He’s very aggressive, and you know it’s a great sort to have somebody who scores goals regularly in the league. And obviously, from set pieces, it’s another big body that you have to deal with. We rode our luck with a couple of set pieces at the end.”

Pushing for a second straight home victory, Heath’s substitutions brought fresh legs to his team’s front four in the introductions of Romario Ibarra (68′) and Darwin Quintero (76′). The latter, replacing Rasmus Schüller, asked questions of the Sounders’ defense late. Quintero’s return from an injury that forced his exit from last Sunday’s 1-0 win over D.C. United brought most of the announced 19,832 in attendance to their feet. It also made a tall Seattle XI relatively taller.

“[T]hey had even more of a height advantage,” said Loons center back Ike Opara, who opened scoring by winning a header over Chad Marshall on a Ján Greguš free kick in the 26th minute. “Vito [Mannone]’s got to kiss the post, because we got lucky. We were decently organized, but the height just wins out most of the time. We felt like sitting ducks a couple of times, and luckily, you know, the post saved us.”

In a heart-stopping 81st minute, Bruin and  Nicolás Lodeiro hit the frame of Minnesota’s goal 32 seconds apart. It was part of a late push that prompted Heath to credit the Sounders.

“I thought we were the best team in the first half,” Heath said. “They were probably a bit more dangerous, and they probably had the best chances in the second.”

That was a fair assessment given how MNUFC (4-3-3, 15 points) began the game. Over the opening 30 minutes the Loons controlled the run of play, holding 55.8 percent possession, outshooting Seattle 5-1 and enjoying a 4-0 advantage in corners to go along with a handful of free kicks in the Sounders’ half. Then, in response to Opara’s goal, Seattle applied steady pressure to the hosts, and found an equalizer in the process.

In the 42nd minute, Brad Smith whipped a cross toward’s Minnesota’s goal, and it was headed straight upfield by Opara. Cristian Roldan latched onto the clearance and laced a low shot past Mannone and inside the post to level the score.

The goal ended Mannone’s 241-minute scoreless streak — a new MLS-era MNUFC record.

“Not much I could have done, but I’m still kicking myself,” Opara said. “It was a great, whipped ball from Brad Smith. He hit it with so much pace I was just trying to get my head on it. I’m frustrated with myself because I didn’t want to put it there. But I didn’t have much reaction time. That’s one of those — I’m going to think about more than [my] goal.”

May 4, 2019; Saint Paul, MN, Saint Paul, MN, USA; Minnesota United supporters celebrate during the first half against Seattle Sounders at Allianz Field. Mandatory Credit: Brace Hemmelgarn-USA TODAY Sports

The draw ate at newly-minuted MNUFC captain — and former Sounder — Ozzie Alonso.

“We should have four wins [at home], but the past is past,” said Alonso. “We have to now keep working… [We’ve] now got to go to Chicago and find a way to win away from home. And you know, we’re still there in the playoff spot.”

Alonso concluded his postgame interview by reflecting on facing the team on which he played for the last 10 seasons.

“Yeah, it’s hard, but you know, it’s part of life — it’s part of the sport,” Alonso said. “I try to do my best to win the game, but it’s always hard against your former team.”

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