Atlanta United managed to bounce back after their five minute collapse against FC Dallas to beat the Philadelphia Andre Blakes 2-0 on Saturday. It was a vintage type performance for Atlanta and one that should help the team build more momentum as they hit the soft spot of their schedule in the coming weeks.
The Seattle Sounders are somewhat of a similar team to Philly and this game could look somewhat similar. The Rave Green feature a good defense, great goalkeeping, a decent midfield with a borderline USMNT no. 8, and a complete and total inability to score goals. Given that, last weekend should have Atlanta well prepared for whatever Seattle tries to do on Sunday.
You will hear us not scoring goals
If there’s one thing the Sounders do, it’s defend. That’s it, that’s basically their one ability as a soccer team. They have no identity, don’t do very much that’s interesting going forward, and try to hold on long enough to get lucky wins.
They have allowed just 22 goals this year, tied for third best in MLS, and have made defense a priority for the team. While that seems impressive, a deeper look at how that defense has played against different opponents may be revealing for how this game will transpire. In seven games against teams currently above the playoff line, Seattle has allowed 15 goals.
Part of this is due to injuries. Jordan Morris got to spend extra time with his dog after tearing his ACL earlier this year and Ozzie Alonso has been unavailable for much of the year. Roman Torres also missed time. The result was that the team was forced to do the unthinkable and play Harry Shipp and Will Bruin. The results are as expected as the Sounders sit in 10th in the West.
The Sounders have not yet beaten a team in the top six of either conference, though they have three draws including a turgid 0-0 result against the New England Revolution last weekend. The highlights from that game say it all:
But still, this is the time of year that Seattle makes their typical late season push to be a soccer team. Usually it begins with a mid-season transfer and ends with them playing in the MLS Cup final. Part one of that plan came to fruition with the acquisition of Raul Ruidiaz who will reportedly make his debut on Sunday.
Ruidiaz has only trained once with Seattle and may only come off of the bench, but the guy is a beast:
Raúl Ruidíaz is exactly the DP striker #Sounders needed. Fantastic addition to #MLS after starring in #LigaMX.— Jason Foster (@JogaBonito_USA) June 30, 2018
•In his prime (28 in July)
•Good on the ball
•40 goals/72 games for #Morelia
•Amazing golazos!#ElNuevo9 pic.twitter.com/fBTTRkbDbR
He could even score Seattle’s 16th goal against Atlanta United on Sunday even if he just comes off the bench.
Everywhere you turn, a Peachtree
So what’s Atlanta going to do?
That’s right everybody - just in time for me to tell you all a few weeks ago that the pressing, fun, high flying Atlanta Uniteds of last year were gone - they’re back baby! Just look at that graph - over the last three weeks Atlanta is the most pressing team in MLS. Get possession and come at LGP at your peril Seattle. Miguel Almiron is scoring goals from impossible angles, Josef Martinez is going to have 50 goals this year and Tito Villalba is back to running at fools off of the wing AND THE PRESS IS BACK.
But is that going to matter?
Maybe not. Seattle has been content to sit back and absorb pressure this year to keep risk at a minimum. They may not be scoring goals, but they aren’t letting many in either. So far, bad teams haven’t had much success at doing that in Atlanta this year. If the Sounders come into MBS and try to play a tight, compact defense, the Five Stripes will eventually figure them out like they did against DC United, the Vancouver Whitecaps, Montreal Impact, and Orlando City. So while this might not be a game Atlanta will lose, it might be hard to watch at times too.
If there is one thing Atlanta needs to be weary of in this match it is their defending on set pieces. The Five Stripes aren’t very big and tend to try to run an offside trap on free kicks to make up for the lack of size on the team. When it doesn’t work it lets the opposition get the second ball because Atlanta is too focused on the trap and ends up out of position. Should that happen this week, Will Bruin and Clint Dempsey could loom large as the game wears on should it be close.