Minnesota Thunder 3 - 1 Seattle Sounders
Macalester College, St. Paul, MN
40 MIN - Coughlin (Winters)
45 MIN - Menyongar (Otto)
83 MIN - Schneider (Zeba)
90 SEA - Gregor (Howes)
Minnesota: John Swallen; John Coughlin, John Sylvester, Eric Otto, Don Gramenz; Mike Gentile, Brian Winters, Morgan Zeba, Luis Labastida (Aaron Leventhal 46); Johnny Menyongar (Mark Abboud 74), Gerard Lagos (Paul Schneider 83).
Seattle: Preston Burpo; Ali John Utush, Kieran Barton, Scott Jenkins, Craig Waibel; Dick McCormick, Greg Howes, Sean Henderson (Andrew Gregor 49), Viet Nguyen (Brian Wood 75); Darren Sawatzky, Craig Tomlinson (Rashid Utush 46).
On a breezy, 70 degree, overcast Wednesday evening, the 1999 A-League Champion Minnesota Thunder met the Seattle Sounders in front of a crowd of 3,670 at Macalaster College for probably their last game at that location. Holding an 8-0-1 record, the Minnesota Thunder hoped to cap their last game there with one final win.
Before I go any further, I would like to say this was on of the cleanest (no cards were issued), most attractive matches I have seen in quite some time. Seattle are a very good team who played well throughout the match. The officiating, which is frequently knocked in the A-League, was excellent tonight!
One thing was very clear from the onset of this match. While both teams had great respect for each other, both felt they had something unique to bring to the table. On the Seattle side, their intensity, and pressure on the ball throughout the field made for some early discomfort on Minnesota's part. Seattle played every 50-50 ball as if it was already theirs, and it showed in some early errant passes by Minnesota. Once the early pressure was adjusted to, Minnesota got more into its game and started to control better, while Seattle never let up. Mid-field play was fun to watch as each played chess at an intense rate, both showing flair and creativity on the field.
It was like watching the tide go through its daily course. Possession would smoothly change from one team to the other as each probed for penetration; an intelligent, visionary move was made to interrupt the flow, calmly reacting at just the right time to change the possession on the field.
Seattle also clearly showed they knew plenty about the diminutive 2000 addition to the Minnesota Thunder, Johnny Menyongar. John was solidly marked, but we were also pleasantly surprised to find that Johnny took this in stride, serving more as an unselfish distributor when his options were shut down.
Towards the end of the 1st half, Minnesota was becoming more successful at penetrating further into the Seattle defensive 3rd. This eventually paid off in earning a corner kick which resulted in the 1st goal of the evening. Taken by Luis Labastida from the keepers left side, the ball was curling away from goal and was placed in high by midfielder Brian Winters for Defender John Coughlin to head down past Seattle keeper Preston Burpo.
Barely 4 minutes later, another corner kick, also taken by Labistida, found defender Eric Otto who smoothly sent the ball to Johnny Menyongar who made quick work slipping the ball low and past Burpo for the 2nd goal of the 1st half.
Halftime arrived with Minnesota up 2-0.
The 2nd half saw 1 substitution for each team. For Minnesota, Aaron Leventhal coming in for Luis Labistida, and for Seattle, Rashid Utush came in for Craig Tomlinson.
One thing I failed to mention from the 1st half. Seattle is doing an excellent job playing the offside trap. The saying goes, "you live and die by the offside trap." Seattle's was working just fine tonight, thank you very much. I finally lost count of how many times Johnny Menyongar got caught, but the Seattle defense definitely had his number.
The 2nd half was almost like a replay of the 1st half. Neither side is playing carelessly. Simply working as a team, waiting for the right moment to attack or counter to present itself. Forays both thru the midfield and down the flanks continue to show each probing the other, looking for the mistake to take advantage of, but never materializing. While there were some moments in both halves where penetration was successful down the flanks, and crosses sent in, solid goalkeeping and defending, was for the most part, the name of the game. Remember, both 1st half goals came from set pieces, not the run of play.
In the 73rd minute, defender Mark Abboud comes on for forward Johnny Menyongar of Minnesota, and in the 75th minute, former Thunder midfielder Brian Wood comes on for midfielder Viet Nguyen for Seattle.
In the 81st minute, forward Gerard Lagos is taken down in the box, having been knocked on the knee earlier, but nothing is called. Unfortunately for Gerard, this ends his match time for the evening. Coming on is Paul Schneider, who has a habit of scoring goals very soon after taking the pitch. Tonight was no exception, as in the 83rd minute, Morgan Zeba streaks down the left side, and crosses a ball in that Paul Schneider gets his head on to beat Preston Burpo for the 3rd Thunder goal of the evening, keeping his game entry, goal scoring reputation intact.
Barely a minute later, midfielder Brian Winters gets a breakaway out of midfield and is taken down in the box by Kieran Barton. Despite a 3-0 lead, the Referee does not hesitate in pointing to the penalty spot. Unfortunately for Don Gramenz, Preston Burpo is up to the challenge, and stops a well taken shot diving to his left.
As the game moves into extra time, a scuffle insues in the Minnesota box, and in probably the only questionable call of the night, Thunder keeper John Swallen gets knocked off the ball and the loose ball is knocked into the net by Andrew Gregor.
Final: Minnesota 3 - 1 Seattle
Referee: Bob Petersen; Asst Refs: Tony Vasoli, Jeff Filipek; 4th Official: