17.04.2021 06:51 h

Seattle thump Minnesota 4-0 as Major League Soccer season opens

Joao Paulo's blistering strike and a brace from Raul Ruidiaz helped the Seattle Sounders to a convincing 4-0 victory over Minnesota United Friday on the opening day of the 2021 Major League Soccer season.

Brazilian midfielder Joao Paulo put the Sounders up 1-0 in the 49th minute with a lightning bolt from 25 yards out. After the Loons failed to clear a cross he controlled the ball with one touch and fired it past Minnesota keeper Dayne St. Clair into the upper left corner.

St. Clair had denied Ruidiaz's penalty with a diving stop in the 29th minute, the attempt awarded after midfielder Wil Trapp was whistled for a handball in the penalty area.

But Peru's Ruidiaz pushed the Sounders' lead to 2-0 in the 70th minute, and he struck again three minutes later with a left-footed shot off a cross from Cristian Roldan.

Freddy Montero, Seattle's all-time leading goalscorer, scored on his Sounders' return in the 86th minute, and goalkeeper Stefan Frei made five saves.

Montero, who played for Seattle from 2009-12 and re-signed with them in the offseason.

Seattle and Minnesota joined arms before the game in a gesture to raise awareness around racial injustice.

Players from both clubs also wore black armbands to acknowledge the death of Daunte Wright, a 20-year-old Black man who was shot and killed Sunday by a police officer in the Minneapolis suburb of Brooklyn Center.

Wright's death came amid the trial of former police officer Derek Chauvin, who's being tried in the death of George Floyd last year in Minneapolis.

Elsewhere, Houston's Memo Rodriguez scored the first goal of the season as the Dynamo beat the San Jose Earthquakes 2-1.

Houston were clicking early, and after a strike by Fafa Picault was ruled offside midfielder Rodriguez scored in the 39th minute, collecting a ball from Joe Corona and firing a right-footed shot from the center of the penalty area.

Maxi Urruti made it 2-0 for Houston in the 56th minute with a close-range strike.

San Jose kept things interesting with a spectacular goal from substitute Paul Marie in the 79th minute. Shea Salinas found Marie, who curled in a shot from outside the area.

The night's two matches were just the start of a season-opening weekend that will see defending MLS Cup champions Columbus Crew hosting the Philadelphia Union, winners of the 2020 Supporters' Shield as the team with the best regular-season record, on Sunday.

Expansion team Austin FC launch their inaugural season on Saturday against Los Angeles FC.