The Seattle Sounders take on MLS expansion side Atlanta United on Friday at CenturyLink Field, and the home side is looking much stronger going into it than originally projected. With a number of players traveling long distances for international matches and others facing uncertain injury news, the outlook at the beginning of the week was starting to look a bit grim. But with the news that nearly the entire squad is available for selection, things are certainly looking a bit better. Head coach Brian Schmetzer previewed the matchup positively: “It’s going to take a team effort, because they do have good players. But we have good players. We will match them strength for strength, and whoever gets the breaks, whoever gets the goals, they’ll win the game.”
Just as he predicted (correctly, I should add,) before the home opener against the Red Bulls, Schmetzer said that he expects Friday’s matchup to be entertaining. Schmetzer loves an entertaining soccer match as much as anyone, even during games in which you’d expect him to be nervous. Asked if the minor dustup between Clint Dempsey and Roman Torres during the USA-Panama match on Tuesday was something to be concerned about, Schmetzer said “it was good entertainment. A couple guys that want to win, I mean that’s what you want to have on your team.” Besides, he said, Dempsey and Torres have patched things up. “It was the big talk of the locker room this morning. They’re okay. They said ‘no problems coach, don’t worry about it, we’re good.’”
Schmetzer also noted that Nicolas Lodeiro, who didn’t play in either of Uruguay’s World Cup qualifiers that he was called up for, is “chomping at the bit to play. He traveled all that way and didn’t play. He’s ready to play.”
Even though Dempsey is apparently available against Atlanta on Friday, it wouldn’t be too surprising if Schmetzer started the USMNT hero on the bench. In his first real minutes for his country since his long medical layoff last season, Dempsey scored four goals in two matches to boost the USA’s 2018 World Cup hopes. Schmetzer said Dempsey is “in a really good spot” and that “he’s in really good spirits in there. Happy to be back, happy to contribute any way he can.” So even if he isn’t able to start, expect to see a very in-form Deuce take the field at some point on Friday.
Now that fears have been somewhat eased about the Sounders’ team selection, Schmetzer simply addressed how he wants to approach the match against a very dangerous Atlanta team. “Play good defense. Make sure we impose our will on them, make sure we have the ball in their half of the field. A very smart, former midfielder-now-turned-coach says that if we have the ball, the other team can’t score.”
While it’s not wise to read too much into preseason, Schmetzer said that the 4-2 loss to Atlanta in Charleston made an impression on some of his players. The first half was mostly made up of trialists and reserves, but when players like Osvaldo Alonso came on in the second half to try and cut the deficit, it helped them get a sense of how their brand new league opponents play. “We got the senior guys in there, Ozzie and those guys. When they came on, they were feeling each other out. It’ll carry over for those guys.”