Three takeaways set Minnesota Western Finals final with Seattle Sounders as Minnesota United Steve Zakuani


It was the Babelo Renoso and Kevin Molino show as Misbell United Brush Sporting Kansas City, with a Western Conference deadline booked with the Seattle Sounders. Here are my takeaways.

Molino is the undisputed playoff MVP

The first half of this game was one of the strangest 3-0 games I’ve ever seen. It’s not that Minnesota didn’t deserve it, he said – it’s that Sporting had enough chances to put the game to bed before the Loons left. The first 25 minutes of this game made me wonder how on earth Minnesota is still in the game. And then Molino awoke and continued to make his case for the MLS Playoff MVP, and rightly so, Minnesota pushed his ticket to the Western Conference Finals.

Molino is a player I have always liked but at times he flatter to cheat. There is talent, but he can be great one game and then anonymous the next. For one reason or another, he has just found a field that reaches very few athletes. He is a place where all he tries to do are things to come, that take years to look perfect for him, and he is putting the ball in the next part with the efficiency that the box I will be proud of any fox.

He has been the best player in the playoffs – bar no. Minnesota is an incredibly deadly forward and it’s not just Molino, it’s Robin Lod, Ethan Finlay, Renoso, and of course Molino, their full attacking quartet. I absolutely love the way they get out on the brakes – they attack with speed and purpose and see that they have a clear plan for what they want to do. Sporting did not help himself defensively, but it was more about how well Minnesota took a chance on his arrival.

The first goal was extraordinary. Fast passing and closing of the ball movement was top notch as Molino’s run and timing of the duo was accompanied by an impressive Renoso time. His attack on Adrian Heath’s team was the best – fast, accurate, objective and deadly.

WATCH: Renso and Molino combine for first two Minnesota goals

The Renoso-Molino combination is similar to the Loureiro-Morris one which works wonders for the Sounders. You can know what they want to do, but it is very difficult, if it is not impossible to stop when it is in full flow. They are not quite at the level of the pair of sounders yet as they have both produced performances that have translated into silverware. But, given the time, and the current trajectory they are on, it is a pair that can dominate for a while.

They are the perfect pairing because their skill sets complement each other so well. One likes to run from the ball and back, while the other has eyes behind his head and can pass without a defense. Again, very similar to the Sounders duo. Renoso is a revelation. I base the players on how good they make the people around them and when he comes he is on top. Molino is one such player that I was: good on the dribble, can go left or right, but he is more than just a winger – that target is dangerous and is capable of getting in and playing at times. Right now I will not take Molino and Renoso, they are in full flight.

Midfield, defensive failures prove to be the undoing of sporting

There were more than a few Western Conference-based MLS fans who doubted how Sporting was worthy of the number one seed. They did not face Seattle, LAFC or Portland throughout the season and therefore it was harder to measure their level than some of the better teams in their conference.

Having said that, I loved what I saw this season the most, but what they ultimately cost in this game was their all-around midfield performance. Illy Sánchez is a classy player and does a good job dictating his team’s tempo but struggles to leave his mark on the game, as did Gianluca Bussio and Roger Espinoza. That sporting engine room – where so many games have been won and lost – chose the wrong time to put in a bad shift. Oswaldo Alonso – his best year may be behind him, but no midfielder that I have placed in a playoff run – gave Minnesota a possession in the middle of the park, which prevented Sporting from falling out of any form of dominance.

Goals change the game – obviously. If Sporting easily scored two or three goals in the opening 25 minutes, we are discussing something very different right now, but as it stands, they were not defensive enough to overcome a poor offensive outing.

Soon after his firing victory against San Jose, I expressed disbelief at how many seconds he had left the league history’s deadliest striker inside a six-yard box. Once again, his defense left much to be desired as it was too easy for Molino to score a straight run for his opening goal. When you score six goals in two home playoff games, you give yourself an almost insurmountable task and that is what sport is played for in the end.

It’s Lodeiro vs. Reynoso in the conference finals

In the most simplistic terms, this game will swing the way between Lodiro and Renoso to be more dominant. I know this is a very basic and simple analysis that anyone can do with two good eyes, but sometimes football comes down to the most obvious thing.

The Sounders have great players on the pitch, but they live and die which Lodeiro does. He is proving to be the best signing in the history of the club and his performance in big games is second to none. If you stop him, you cut off Ruidiaz and Morris a lot because he is their supplier.

Can Alonso turn back the clock and put in one of those master defensive efforts that he has done so many times before that game will be played at the very stadium? If he can be an OG, the best holding mid I’ve ever called for him to be included in our league, then Minnesota’s chances increase as he is able to shut down Laudrero. I can’t wait to see that matchup.

On the other hand, it is the same story for Renoso: Can he increase the impact of his game and pull Seattle’s defenders on the pitch? He will not be man-marked by any one player but the Sounders will need to try to limit him by the committee. He provides such a great service to Molino that you are almost killing two birds with one stone if you can keep him calm.

To be clear, there will be many factors that determine the outcome, but I really think that whichever team’s playmaker will be on the song, it will be the team that will move on.


Former MLS star winger Steve zakuani He was the No. 1 overall pick in the 2009 MLS Superdraft and played for the Seattle Sounders and Portland Timbers. He is currently a member of the Sounders broadcast team and has published a book “rise above” And a documentary “Unbreakable” He returned from a serious injury that marked his playing days. He is also a coach at Bellevue High School and makes a difference in the lives of young athletes through his nonprofit Kingdom Hope Organization.

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