Seattle still seeks first win as it hosts Minnesota

SEATTLE — Seattle Sounders coach Brian Schmetzer acknowledged the team’s players and coaches all heaved a big sigh of relief last week when Will Bruin scored just before halftime at Sporting Kansas City.

After going their first three games of the Major League Soccer season with no goals — all losses — just getting that first goal was huge.

“Whenever the longer you go without scoring, the more pressure you feel internally,” Bruin said. “You may not talk about it, but everybody knows.”

The Sounders came away with a 2-2 draw in Kansas City, something of a positive development with the team scoring first goals of its MLS season — Cristian Roldan added a goal in the 73rd minute — but still looking for its first win. Seattle is the only team in the league without a win.

That first point was nice, but the Sounders — the Western Conference champs two years running and a year removed from being MLS champs — want more.

“We’re definitely still hungry for a win,” Bruin said. “But getting that first point, first goal, is kind of like the monkey off your back. Then coming back home, it’s definitely good momentum to build on.”

That momentum will take the Sounders (0-3-1) into this week’s home tilt against Minnesota United (2-4-0), who sit eighth in the Western Conference.

This will be the Loons’ second straight away match in the Pacific Northwest, coming off a 3-2 setback to the Portland Timbers last week.

“We’re going into another cauldron this weekend,” Minnesota coach Adrian Heath said. “Along with Portland, arguably one of the most atmospheric grounds in the U.S. And they’re very, very good at home. If you look at their record over the last three years, they probably collected more points at home than most teams in the MLS.”

Minnesota will continue to integrate midfielder Darwin Quintero into the side after acquiring him as their first designated player on March 31. Quintero played 90 minutes and scored a goal last week in his debut at Portland.

Quintero helps fill the void left when playmaking midfielder Kevin Molino suffered a season-ending knee injury early in the 2018 campaign.

“Obviously, he’s going to be a difference maker for us,” said Ethan Finlay, who leads the Loons with two goals this season. “I thought what we saw the other night was his ability to be a playmaker at times, but also his ability to do it on his own. And you saw that in his goal, obviously.”

Schmetzer doesn’t need to be convinced of Quintero’s quality.

“He brings an added dimension to their attack — they have guys who can put the ball in the back of the net, but he’s something different, something special,” the Sounders’ coach said. “He’s a handful.”

The Sounders won twice against Minnesota last season, but are counting on a much tougher test.

“The first thing that comes to mind, they’re a much better team this year, from what I’ve seen so far,” Bruin said. “They’re more dynamic in the attacking half with the addition of Quintero. They’re more compact and organized defensively from what I’ve seen. So they’re vastly improved from last time we’ve played them. We’re going to have to be ready for it.”

The Sounders will get striker Clint Dempsey back after a two-match suspension. But they’ll be missing striker Jordan Morris (knee) and defender Kim Kee-Hee (calf), while defender Waylon Francis (hamstring) and midfielder Harry Shipp (ankle) are questionable.

The Loons will be missing midfielders Sam Cronin (cervicogenic dysfunction) and Molino and defender Tyrone Mears (leg), while Marc Burch is questionable (knee).