Atlanta United play their third preseason match tomorrow and it just so happens to be against the reigning and defending MLS Cup champions, Seattle Sounders. While both the two teams will meet in week four of the regular season, this match-up is all about finding the right lineups and combinations to start the season with.
To get to know a little bit more about the Rave Green, we chatted with our fellow SB Nation pals over at Sounder at Heart. Dave Clark was kind enough to give us the skinny on his beloved club.
To see what they wanted to know about Atlanta United, read their post.
DSS: How have the defending champions looked in preseason so far? Any signs of post-celebration rust?
SaH: It's not rust per se, but the first preseason when Clint Dempsey, Nicolas Lodeiro and Jordan Morris are playing together. It's easy to forget that the Seattle Sounders won the MLS Cup without Clint. They basically had one DP on the roster since Nelson Haedo Valdez performed more like a high cap, non-scoring forward for the year he was here. Add in a lack of Osvaldo Alonso, Brad Evans and Harry Shipp and the Sounders are essentially playing their B squad to start most games. Their defense is still stellar, but the offense is lagging, for obvious reasons.
DSS: With Tyrone Mears departing, what does the club's new backline look like and how has it performed so far?
SaH: The backline, when healthy, will be Joevin Jones, Chad Marshall, Roman Torres and Brad Evans. But in preseason that right back spot has been Oniel Fisher or trialists like Darrius Barnes. That's lead most teams to attack from the Seattle right. It forces Torres wider. That's perfectly OK. Seattle's fullbacks are going to get forward quite a bit. They'll drop Alonso or Cristian Roldan deep during run-of-play while Marshall and Torres split out. Even with the makeshift defense the Sounders have given up just a goal a game in preseason. All of that's been done with their backup keeper since Stefan Frei got injured during US National Team Camp.
DSS: Will Clint Dempsey be ready for the season and will he ever get back to his old self after being diagnosed with arrhythmia?
SaH: Clint is back. He looks great. He's still learning to trust the bench midfielders so is dropping too far into his own third, but he is back. Everything about his recovery and fitness curve is going to plan. The team is quite cautious with his playing time. Doctors influence every decision about how long he goes in each game. That may soften a bit in the regular season, but in preseason he has times when he must stop. He should got about 75 minutes in his final game of the preseason, but we don't know if that's against Atlanta or Columbus.