Joao Paulo doesn’t fit into words.
Precision, power and passion don’t quite depict all he brings to the Sounders FC. Just saying he’s Brazilian is too trite, although even a casual men’s soccer fan would presume he’s an elite talent.
That magic was on display from the opening kickoff against Minnesota United on Saturday. The stunner was a goal in the 38th minute of an eventual 2-1 win for the Sounders at Allianz Field in Saint Paul, Minnesota.
Joao Paulo’s goal was a sequence that generates hype. Sounders winger Jordan Morris collected a loose ball on the left flank. Teammate Nico Lodeiro cut a perfect pass (that Loons defender Michael Boxall will regret not challenging harder) to Joao Paulo. The trailing midfielder sent a right-footed shot to the upper-right corner of the net.
No one would fault the viewer from dismissing the rest of the match to watch replays of the goal on a loop. A Loons own goal in the 49th minute, the MLS debut of Sounders striker Raul Ruidiaz and his two subsequent chances that were saved and a swift penalty kick would’ve been missed. But nothing topped Joao Paulo’s goal.
Most of Seattle’s performance is what the Brazilian discussed the team needing to after a two-week international break. The final third and finishing out matches seem to be the last pieces Seattle needs to click.
Sounders defender Jackson Ragen had a lapse of judgment in defending Joseph Rosales in the penalty box in the 81st minute that was ruled a foul. Minnesota midfielder Emanuel Reynoso sent keeper Stefan Frei the wrong direction to score the penalty in the 82nd minute.
The blip was the only blemish for Seattle (2-2-1) that put a heavy emphasis on the match. The club didn’t want to lose sight of MLS play with a massive CONCACAF Champions League semifinal match against New York City FC waiting in the wings.
With the win secured, the Sounders can turn their full focus to reaching the tournament’s final for the first time in club history. The two-legged series opens Wednesday at Lumen Field.
Seattle internationals Cristian Roldan (U.S.), Morris (U.S.) and Xavier Arreaga (Ecuador) returned to the starting lineup after helping their countries qualify for the World Cup. Cameroonian defender Nouhou, who logged the most minutes in helping the Indomitable Lions qualify, subbed on in the 76th minute for Arreaga.
Lodeiro made his first MLS start of the season and the first overall since the CCL series against F.C. Motagua in February. The midfielder missed games due to an adductor injury and health and safety protocols.
Minnesota (2-1-2) had their full complement of players available for selection.
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