SEATTLE – It was a new game but what’s become an all-too-familiar story for Minnesota United on Sunday.
A week after falling behind by two goals early in Portland, the Loons again conceded two goals in the first 25 minutes at Seattle. A score from Christian Ramirez gave the Loons hope, but they couldn’t overcome the deficit and lost their fourth consecutive match, this one a 3-1 defeat to the Sounders FC at CenturyLink Field.
United coach Adrian Heath said his team has openly discussed its early-game struggles.
“I’m, honestly, at a loss to explain that,” Heath said. “We can’t speak about it enough. … It’s the third or fourth time, on the road, that it’s happened. I feel like a broken record. I said it this time last week: We can’t give teams a head start. We just can’t do it.”
United’s defense held strong for the first quarter of the game before the Sounders broke through. The two-time defending Western Conference champion, Seattle (1-3-1), attacked like a team determined to collect its first victory of the season. Gustav Svensson got the home crowd fired up with a rocket from outside the box in the 23rd minute.
Two minutes later, Will Bruin netted another score to put the Loons down by two early.
Both goals came against veteran goalkeeper Bobby Shuttleworth, who made his first start of the season for Minnesota (2-5).
“I think we responded well in the second half but, again [it’s] too little too late,” Shuttleworth said. “We’re trying to dig ourselves out of a massive hole, on the road, in front of 30,000 people that are against us. From that point on, you’ve got to be perfect and get some luck, and unfortunately we didn’t get that in the second half.”
Ramirez provided an instant spark for United after coming on as a sub in the 52nd minute. Darwin Quintero lobbed a cross in front of the goal in the 66th minute and Ramirez headed it in for his first score this season.
“Quintero did a good job to find me in the back post and I know we’ve been working on … my movement with his service,” Ramirez said. “So it’s just continuing to get comfortable. He’s going to pick you out if you get an open spot.”
The Loons pressured Seattle with several opportunities in the closing minutes. A Francisco Calvo shot in the 90th minute went just wide into the side netting.
With the Loons focused on tying the score, Seattle’s Jordy Delem added a third goal for Seattle in the final minute of stoppage time.
United has been outscored 10-3 in its current four-match losing streak and will try to turn things around Saturday when it plays host to Houston. After starting the season with the bulk of their matches on the road, the Loons play six of the next seven matches at TCF Bank Stadium.
“Hopefully, this will be a turning point for us,” Heath said. “But I do know one thing: That if we keep conceding soft goals like that, it’s going to be very difficult for us to mount a playoff challenge this year. And we are capable of it with the group we have.”