To get everyone ready for Atlanta United’s return to the pitch after a two-week hiatus, we spoke with Sounder at Heart’s Dave Clark to get his take on the international break, Clint Dempsey, and Seattle’s start to the campaign.
Find out what SaH wanted to know about Atlanta United by reading their story.
DSS: Atlanta United is certainly going to feel some effects of the international break with Josef Martinez out for Friday's match due to injury and Miguel Almiron and Kenwyne Jones playing two matches for their respective countries. What's the likely status for Seattle's international call-ups against Atlanta?
SaH: Unlike AUFC there were no injuries plaguing the Sounders' call-ups. Roman Torres is the least likely to play. He looked exhausted at the end of the draw with Panama. Clint Dempsey probably will not start. It was just three weeks ago when he was unlikely to be called into US duty. Joevin Jones is young and can run for days. Nicolas Lodeiro put thousands of miles on his frequent flier card, but did not play in either of Uruguay's matches.
That's a pretty good set of circumstances for the Sounders. They do have a couple of injuries plaguing them right now. Jordan Morris has an ankle knock and is day-to-day. Both Oniel Fisher and Brad Evans are working back and could probably be ready if this wasn't a Friday night game. Aaron Kovar is on the road back from his groin surgery.
With a roster at just 25 players having four injuries and four call-ups with a Friday night game after Tuesday international duty is going to be rough.
DSS: How nice is it to have Clint Dempsey back?
SaH: It's awesome. Most important is it means Clint is playing soccer again. There is also the fact that though the Sounders won MLS Cup, Clint was not there. He's the type of player who would be more motivated by such a situation. A hungry, healthy Clint Dempsey is the type of Dempsey that threatens to win the MVP. One only need look at his performance over the international break to see that Deuce is Deuce again.
If he can carry a four-goal blowout into April the Seattle Sounders are going to win a lot of road games. His partnerships with Jordan Morris and Nicolas Lodeiro are stronger than the one he rapidly developed with Christian Pulisic. Captain America is back, even if he no longer has his shield.
DSS: What are your main takeaways from Seattle's start to the season? Any signs of complacency after the MLS Cup win?
SaH: Road games are hard and the offseason after an MLS Cup is short. In several ways Seattle started slow on purpose. They gave Lodeiro an extra week off. Several players started US camp just three weeks after the Cup parade. There's little time to recover after that. Put in tired legs and two road games in a league where home teams win 50%+ of their games is rough. And after this Friday's game the team is back on the road for four matches. It's a rough first 20% of the year, but it will mean a home heavy schedule for the rest of the year.
Predicted Seattle Sounders Lineup:
SaH: (4-2-3-1): Stefan Frei; Joevin Jones, Tony Alfaro, Chad Marshall, Gustav Svensson; Osvaldo Alonso, Cristian Roldan; Harry Shipp, Nicolas Lodeiro, Alvaro Fernandez; Jordan Morris