SEATTLE – Goals change games. So do shots that never are.
Minnesota United experienced both in Sunday’s 1-0 loss at Seattle that determined who’d finish second and earn conceivably two home playoff games.
The Sounders scored the game’s only goal on defender Roman Torres’ first MLS goal in the 29th minute. His running, stretching header came after a corner kick went from one sideline to the other and then was served back again, curving to Torres free at the 6-yard box’s edge.
“I’m happy a defender scored our goal,” Seattle coach Brian Schmetzer said.
Ten minutes later, United veteran midfielder Ethan Finlay won a 1-on-1 battle for the battle and approached goalkeeper Stefan Frei all alone but his shot aimed at the goal’s left corner hit the post.
Finlay said he expects to score on that shot “every single time.”
“I told the guys that’s on me, that’s my bad,” Finlay said. “Goals change games. It was a great opportunity for me to get us even and I wasn’t able to do so. It’s so disappointing, but these guys believe in me and we believe in each other and we will be fine.”
United midfielder Ozzie Alonso wore great pal Nicolas Lodeiro’s jersey back to the Loons’ locker room after he played in Seattle for the first time since 10 seasons spent there.
The Sounders honored and thanked Alonso with a pregame scoreboard video montage. He also was presented framed artwork depicting him voted among the team’s Best IX in its first decade in MLS. Fans cheered him and he lifted his hands over his head with applause in return.
“It’s a little weird,” he said. “It was great to come back and see friends and family. Now I’m focusing to keep going.”
United midfielder Jan Gregus, subbed out in the 69th minute, was headed directly to the airport after Sunday’s game to join his Slovakia national team during a FIFA international break that delays the start of the MLS Cup playoffs until Oct. 19 and 20. Madagascar’s Romain Metanire, Finland’s Robin Lod and Rasmus Schuller, Trinidad’s Kevin Molino, U.S. Under-23 members Hassani Dotson and Mason Toye have been called up, too.
United management has asked Madagascar’s national team to excuse Metanire from this window or limit his minutes of play if he does join them for an Oct. 16 African Cup of Nations qualifier before a 19-hour trip back to Minnesota.
As of Sunday, it hadn’t received an answer.
Another sort of Seattle homecoming
Heath’s modified starting lineup included rookie Dotson, who grew up 25 miles south of Seattle in Federal Way and had 100 or more family and friends rooting him on. He attended Sounders games when he was a kid.
“Ozzie was my favorite player,” Dotson said. “I haven’t told Ozzie that. Next was Fredy Montero.”