Opponent Insight: Previewing MNUFC v SEA with Sounder At Heart

After a 2-0 away from home last week in Queens, Minnesota United returns to St. Paul for their first home match since resuming league play. Northland Soccer Journal spoke to Mark Kastner, of Sounder At Heart, about how the struggles the club has rebounded in 2023 and what to expect from the Sounders during this afternoon’s match in Minnesota.

Match Vitals

MIN: 8-8-7 (2-2-6 at home) / 10th in the West, 31 pts / 28 GF, 30 GA
SEA: 10-9-6 (4-5-2 on the road) / 4th in the West, 36 pts / 29 GF, 25 GA
Matchday 27
AppleTV | FOX | 1500 ESPN

Northland Soccer Journal: Seattle has a 11-1-1 record against MNUFC. Both teams have seen plenty of changeover in the last 7 seasons — Who or what is responsible for that dominance and can it continue?
Mark Kastner: I think you can attribute it to Brian Schmetzer and the way he coaches his teams. For the most part, the wins Seattle has over Minnesota have been fairly routine. It seems like Schmetzer has Adrian Heath’s number. Even if you take into account the more thrilling victories that involved last minute winners, Schmetzer has been able to make tactical adjustments to out coach Heath.

NSJ: After missing the playoffs in 2022, the Sounders have turned it around in 2023 and currently sit at 4th place in the West. What do you think is making the difference this season?

MK: Health. Joao Paulo is fully healthy after tearing his ACL in the CCL final last year and he’s one of the best midfielders in the league

NSJ: The Sounders are missing enough key players that one of MNUFC’s preview pieces is dedicated to the inactive list. Whose absence is the most impactful? Is anyone set to return to put the Sounders in overdrive to close out the season?

MK: The Sounders are a completely different team when Cristian Roldan is healthy and in the lineup. He’s missed significant time this season with concussion issues and he might not be ready to go for this match.

NSJ:Who is one underrated or under-the-radar player MNUFC fans should watch out for on Sunday?

MK: He might not necessarily be under the radar anymore as he’s some of the leading assist getters in the league this season, but Leo Chu has really come into his own this season. To the point where the Sounders offense more or less rests on his shoulders from a creative point of view. He currently has 8 assists, which leads the team. The lone Sounders u22 initiative player has stepped up this year in a big way.

NSJ: With a few more attacking pieces, Minnesota has troubled defenses with some less predictable tactics. How do you predict Seattle will address that?

MK: The Sounders have one of the best defenses in the league from a goals conceded perspective, but in recent months they’ve been kind of shaky. The problems are from their own doing, with costly mental mistakes from key guys like Yeimar Gomez Andrade and the like. I suspect if Seattle has a focused performance at the back they’ll do well on Sunday.

NSJ: Predictions: Starting XI? Score?

MK: Frei; Nouhou, Ragen, Yeimar, A. Roldan; Joao Paulo, Vargas; Chu, Rusnak, Morris; Ruidiaz 0-0