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Sounders vs. Atlanta United, recap: No goals, but lots of fun

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Sounders hit the post twice but can’t find the back of the net.

Max Aquino / Sounder at Heart

A game that was robbed of much of its star power due to the recent spat of international games still turned out to be an entertaining — if scoreless — affair. The Seattle Sounders probably created more and better chances, hitting the woodwork twice, but couldn’t find the back of the net in a 0-0 tie against Atlanta United. The tie did run the Sounders’ home unbeaten run to 13 games.

It was the first time Atlanta has been held scoreless, but they nearly pulled off a miracle win when Kenwyne Jones got open in the box and fired off a shot that looked destined for the back of the net. But Cristian Roldan made a sliding block to keep the clean sheet.

The Sounders’ best look came when Clint Dempsey put a header off the post from a Nicolas Lodeiro free kick shortly after he entered in the 56th minute. A few minutes later, Lodeiro nearly scored an olimpico only to have his corner carom off the near post.

Before kick, the Sounders’ already-depleted roster took another blow when Chad Marshall had to be scratched from the starting XI due to illness. Tony Alfaro replaced him in central defense. Jordy Delem also received his first MLS start for the Sounders at right back; Oniel Fisher had only recovered from his hamstring injury enough to start on the bench. Atlanta was also missing two of their best starters: Josef Martinez and Miguel Almiron, though the latter did start on the bench.

The match started pretty evenly, with both teams trying to get a feel of the game early. The Sounders probably had the best early chance after working the ball well down the pitch that ended with Jordan Morris crossing it in for Roldan, but the ball bounced off his chest and flew just wide. Stefan Frei was then forced to come way off his line and make a risky dive to nick the ball off the Atlanta attacker.

Seattle controlled the game for most of the subsequent 15 minutes, but their attacks were never particularly dangerous. Atlanta managed to jump ahead and hit Seattle hard for a few minutes, forcing the defense and Stefan Frei onto the back foot a number of times. They weren’t shy about shooting, but Frei was only truly threatened once. Joevin Jones, who was one of Seattle’s best attackers in the first half, showed off a very nice bit of skill to clear an Atlanta cross with a cheeky backheel.

Atlanta’s spell of control was followed by a very tepid 20 or so minutes, as both sides failed to get any real attacks going. Gustav Svensson came up with a big slide tackle to deny an Atlanta after they split Seattle’s defense with a dangerous long ball. The final real chance of the half was a free kick for the Sounders after Lodeiro was hacked down outside the box. Nico took the ensuing chance himself, but his curled shot went just over the bar.

It didn’t take long for the Sounders to come out flying in the second half, but ultimately to no avail. They had a few more solid chances afterwards, but as in the first half, they lacked the final ball to produce anything particularly dangerous. Brian Schmetzer predictably brought on Dempsey for Flaco Fernandez after about 56 minutes in the hopes of getting Seattle’s attack back on track. Also predictably, Dempsey made an immediate impact when he headed a dangerous free kick against the Atlanta post.

In response to Seattle’s invigorated attack, Atlanta brought on their own game changer, Miguel Almiron, near the 65th minute. That didn’t deter the Sounders, though, as they attacked relentlessly and pressured Atlanta’s defense into making mistakes. Roldan and Morris combined for a sequence of attacks, and the former’s hustle to keep the ball in play nearly made Atlanta play. Seattle made their second substitution after 80 minutes, Henry Wingo for Delem, which pushed Roldan back into the emergency RB slot for the final 10 minutes. Even though Atlanta made some positive substitutions in the attack, they were clearly in time-wasting mode as they held on for the draw.

A mistake by Seattle gave Atlanta one very solid chance as the clock ticked down, but Frei gathered Almiron’s weak shot without too much trouble. A few more attacks from Seattle nearly troubled Atlanta, but again they failed to produce a final ball. Schmetzer sent on Will Bruin in stoppage time to make one final push, and he immediately latched onto a lofted cross from Roldan, but it flew just wide. Atlanta goalkeeper Alec Kann made the most of his goal kicks despite repeated warning from the referee, but he was never carded for time-wasting.

The Sounders will now go back on the road for the next three games before finally returning home on April 29.