Minnesota United are determined to spoil the party when the Seattle Sounders begin the new MLS season at home on Friday.
The Sounders reached MLS Cup in 2020, their fourth final in five years.
But Seattle were outclassed by the Columbus Crew and begin this season with Jordan Morris sidelined by another serious injury and Nico Lodeiro recovering from a setback of his own.
Minnesota coach Adrian heath is still wary of the Sounders' talents but is determined his side will have a say in the opener.
"It's never an easy place to go play," Heath said. "As away games go on the opening day, it couldn't be much tougher.
"[They are a] terrific club, well coached. I've had a lot of time for their staff, we got on really well. We stay in touch.
"Four finals in five years says everything you need to know about Seattle. They've got quality players, good DPs. So, we know it's going to be really tough this weekend.
"But I think Schmetz is sensible enough and smart enough to know that we aren't going to come there to make up the numbers this weekend."
Brian Schmetzer described the Western Conference as "a dogfight", with Seattle finishing second last season and Minnesota fourth.
They then met in the Western Conference Final and the Sounders sensationally rallied from two goals down to win at Lumen Field in the most recent MLS game at Seattle's home stadium before Friday.
Goalkeeper Stefan Frei said: "We certainly remember the last time they came to our place. We expect them to remember that painful experience as well.
"It's a new season. They're going to want to start the season on the right foot just as much as we do."
Seattle Sounders – Nouhou Tolo
Nouhou has an interesting role to play for Seattle this season, it seems. Dribbled past 13 times last season - more often than any other Sounders defender - the slightly erratic left-back looks set to be shifted inside in a new 3-5-2 formation. He must hold firm for the system to work.
Minnesota United – Emanuel Reynoso
Reynoso was the Loons' creator in chief after his arrival last season. He finished the year with a sensational 12 assists in 16 games, setting up at least one goal in each of his final six outings of the season, including scoring and assisting at Seattle. "He's lethal," said this week's opponent Frei.
- The Sounders have never lost to Minnesota United, winning six of their seven meetings (D1). Seattle are one of three teams (also LA Galaxy, Philadelphia) Minnesota have played more than once but never defeated.
- The Sounders, coming off a 3-0 defeat in Columbus in last season's MLS Cup, were dominant at home down the stretch, winning eight of their final nine games at Lumen Field (D1) in 2020. Seattle have lost only one of their past 21 home matches (W16 D4), regular season and playoffs, dating back to August 2019.
- Minnesota open their fifth season in similar fashion to the way they opened their first four: out west. This will be the fifth straight season the Loons open on the west coast, and the fourth in Cascadia (one at Seattle, one at Vancouver, two at Portland, one at San Jose).
- Raul Ruidiaz scored 10 goals after the MLS regular season restarted last August, tied with Chicago's Robert Beric for the most in the league in that time.
- Of Minnesota's final 14 goals last season, Reynoso assisted 10, had a secondary assist for another and scored two of the other three (excluding own goals). He was involved in all eight goals the Loons netted in the playoffs.
Updated April 15, 2021