As the Seattle Sounders’ 2017 preseason starts to wind down, it’s no surprise that head coach Brian Schmetzer decided to start some of his youngest and most inexperienced players in Wednesday’s exhibition match against Atlanta United. Whether or not Schmetzer expected it, Tata Martino did just about the opposite and selected a starting XI that’s probably close to the one he’ll send out on Opening Day. This imbalance showed in the first half, and the Sounders were never really in the match until bringing in nearly all of their first choice players later in the second half. Atlanta’s goals against Seattle’s weak starting XI boosted them to a 4-2 win.
The misery started quickly for the Sounders, as Atlanta’s Josef Martinez jumped on a terrible pass by trialist Quinton Griffith and took the lead in just the first minute of the match. And before Seattle could catch their breath after the restart, Atlanta earned a penalty thanks to a foul by Sounders trialist Darius Barnes. Miguel Almiron slotted home the penalty to make it 2-0 to United in the third minute of the match. Things didn’t get much better for the Sounders after that goal, though David Olsen did come very close to scoring from a sensational side-footed volley with his back to the goal, but it bounced off the bar.
So close from Olsen! pic.twitter.com/NGUkVzwd4M— Sounder At Heart (@sounderatheart) February 23, 2017
Henry Wingo had a great chance not long after Olsen’s attempt, but it was saved by Atlanta’s Alec Kann. But Atlanta’s dominance continued in the 20th minute, when Hector Villalba tore through Seattle’s defense and fired it past Bryan Meredith and into the far post to make it 3-0. Even though Atlanta continued to hold possession and create chances, Seattle’s ragtag defense managed to get it together for the rest of the half and prevent any more goals.
That didn’t last long after the break though, as Atlanta scored again through Martinez just after the restart. Things settled for Seattle afterwards, as Schmetzer slowly introduced substitutes after bringing on a handful (including Osvaldo Alonso and Will Bruin) after halftime. Rookie Henry Wingo finally opened up the scoring for Seattle, thanks to an assist from Will Bruin in the 62nd minute. The tide truly turned after more Sounders starters came onto the pitch, namely Nicolas Lodeiro and Joevin Jones.
Atlanta’s Julian Gressel saw red after getting two yellow cards in quick succession, one for a foul on Lodeiro and another for his subsequent kicking away of the ball. After the 70th minute, the Sounders were not only up a man, but they also introduced five more veterans to the game. With an XI that looked closer to what we’ll see in MLS this season, the Sounders took control of the match for the final 20 minutes. Joevin Jones in particular was very lively, bursting down the left and firing in crosses constantly. One of those finally found a teammate after 75 minutes, when Will Bruin latched onto a short lobbed cross and headed it into Atlanta’s goal to make it 4-2. The goal was actually reviewed using the new VAR system to determine if Jones was offside, but they decided that he was not and the goal stood.
Goal confirmed after VAR. Will Bruin's header pulls one back for Seattle. 4-2. pic.twitter.com/QQSO9K6Ell— Sounder At Heart (@sounderatheart) February 23, 2017
Further highlights of the final few minutes included a yellow card to Lodeiro for simulation, though subsequent replays showed that there was indeed contact by the defender. Jones added to his impressive display late on with an excellent outside-the-boot shot that nearly found the goal.
- Of the many trialists in the starting XI, only David Olsen came out looking like he might stick around and make the S2 roster this season.
- Henry Wingo looked very good as well, and his goal was the culmination of a very good performance. His speed, technical ability, and finishing were all on display on Wednesday.
- Try not to read too much into this one, as very little of this resembled an actual MLS match.
- Atlanta’s Designated Players, all of which scored goals on Wednesday, look pretty darn good (even if it was against Seattle’s scrubs). It’ll be very interesting to see how they play against a first choice MLS squad next month.