Atlanta United came into Seattle without their top goal scorer but left the Emerald City with a valuable point on the road. Of course the result is all that matters, but the team definitely looked disjointed without the international players starting the game. The week after the international break is always filled with mysterious and odd results (if you don’t believe it, explain Chelsea losing to Crystal Palace). For Major League Soccer it meant that every home team either won, including Minnesota, or drew this past week.
Yamil Asad, Jacob Peterson, and Julian Gressel talked to reporters on Wednesday about the game in Seattle and the upcoming match in Toronto. Peterson, who is entering his 11th year in the league, reacted to the draw saying, “in this league, especially on the road, points come at a premium, they’re very difficult to get. A tie on the road, especially going across the country to a tough place in Seattle is a very good result for us.” With Chris McCann, Jeff Larentowicz and Jacob Peterson starting in their place, Atlanta showed the depth and roster strength needed to get a point.
A draw against Seattle is even more impressive considering who those players filled in for to begin the match. Yamil Asad noted that, “it wasn’t just missing Josef, we were missing all three: Josef, Miguel, and Carlos. Three really important pieces of our team.” At times Atlanta struggled to create chances in the early going and Asad mentioned that the team particularly missed Martinez because as a striker “his movement is really good.”
The news that Josef Martinez will miss four to six weeks changes how Atlanta will line up in his absence. Julian Gressel said that training without Martinez over the international break helped prepare the team for him to be out of the lineup noting, “we trained the way we played all week and so we had a pretty good handle of what we were going to be like on the field and who was going to play where and [...] it wasn’t too big of a surprise.”
Looking forward to next week, Atlanta will need to effectively build Fort Knox around the goal to keep a third straight clean sheet. With Michael Bradley, Jozy Altidore, and Sebastian Giovinco on the roster, Toronto is one of the most talented and dangerous teams in MLS. In response to the attacking power TFC has Jacob Peterson talked about prioritizing defense like the team did against Seattle saying, “they’ve got some dangerous players, that’s why they had the season they did last year and its really on us to be cognizant of where they are out on the field.”
One player Julian Gressel will be seeing a lot of in midfield is Michael Bradley, a player MLSSoccer.com writer Will Parchman compared the United international to before the draft. Asked about facing the TFC midfielder, Gressel commented that, “obviously he’s a very, very good player. He dictates the game well, he controls the tempo of games, but the Toronto team in general is pretty well organized.”
Despite the talent that Toronto has and the focus on defense leading into the match, Gressel noted that, “we want to try and enforce our way of style onto them so that they have to adjust and defend us and we don’t just worry about them we worry about us as well.” Both Atlanta and Toronto are coming off of 0-0 draws and if the Five Stripes can enforce their style against the Reds, United should at least earn another point on the road or even steal a win.