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Seattle Sounders vs. Atlanta United: Highlights, stats and quotes

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“I think there were a few guys who might have been a little hesitant to pull the trigger – we can’t micromanage what they do because they are such talented guys, but we need to get a few more shots on target.” -Brian Schmetzer

A scoreless draw at home is never an ideal result, and head coach Brian Schmetzer didn’t exactly look pleased post-match. On the other hand he wasn’t too upset, nor can he be after a makeshift Seattle Sounders lineup held the best-form offense in MLS to zeros and had multiple scoring chances hit the post. An exciting game showed glimpses of the best both sides can offer this season, but both failed to execute in the final third. Atlanta United FC are definitely poised to be a force in the Eastern Conference this season, but Friday they learned they won’t score at will against the best in MLS.

The Sounders now have 5 points, with a record of 1-1-2 and a goal difference of 1. That’s good for 1.25 points per game and 6th in the Western Conference (this will likely change throughout the weekend).


MATCH SUMMARY

Seattle Sounders FC 0 - Atlanta United FC 0

Friday, March 31, 2017

Venue: Xbox Pitch at CenturyLink Field

Referee: Robert Sibiga

Assistants: CJ Morgante, Apolinar Mariscal

Fourth Official: Drew Fischer

Attendance: 40,182

Weather: 51 degrees and mostly sunny

SCORING SUMMARY

None

MISCONDUCT SUMMARY

ATL - Julian Gressel (caution) 20'

ATL - Yamil Asad (caution) 43'

LINEUPS & STATS

Seattle Sounders FC - Stefan Frei; Jordy Delem (Henry Wingo 80'), Gustav Svensson, Tony Alfaro, Joevin Jones; Osvaldo Alonso - captain, Cristian Roldan, Alvaro Fernandez (Clint Dempsey 57'), Nicolás Lodeiro, Harry Shipp (Will Bruin 90'+1'); Jordan Morris

Substitutes not used: Tyler Miller, Nouhou Tolo, Will Bruin, Henry Wingo

Total shots: 13 (Roldan, 3)

Shots on goal: 1 (Shipp, 1)

Fouls: 7 (Lodeiro, 3)

Offside: 4 (Morris, 2)

Corner-kicks: 6 (Lodeiro, 6)

Saves: 3 (Frei, 3)

Atlanta United FC - Alec Kann; Tyrone Mears, Leandro Gonzalez Pirez, Michael Parkhurst - captain, Greg Garza; Yamil Asad, Chris McCann (Carlos Carmona 73'), Jeff Larentowicz, Julian Gressel, Jacob Peterson (Miguel Almirón 65'); Hector Villalba (Kenwyne Jones 82')

Substitutes not used: Kyle Reynish, Miles Robinson, Kevin Kratz, Mark Bloom

Total shots: 11 (Gressel, 4)

Shots on goal: 3 (3 players, 1)

Fouls: 18 (3 players, 3)

Offside: 2 (Garza/Mears, 1)

Corner-kicks: 3 (Asad, 2)

Saves: 1 (Kann, 1)


POST-MATCH QUOTES:

SOUNDERS FC HEAD COACH BRIAN SCHMETZER

On Chad Marshall’s scratch:

“Illness. Not a problem because Tony [Alfaro] came in and did a great job. That back four played against Necaxa, so I had no issues and drama – you plug the next guy in and he steps up and does his job. Tony did well.”

On the performance of Jordy Delem:

“Good, good. [Oniel Fisher] was still a little dinged up with his hamstring, I didn’t know if he could make 90, so that was more of the main reason for that, but he did OK. You saw what he brings – he brings a little tenacity. He jumps well and won some headers. Overall, [his performance was] pretty good.”

On Gustav Svensson:

“Stefan [Frei] certainly came up with a couple of pretty big saves. I mentioned Tony – Gustav was great again. Delem, you know, learning that position, and Joevin [Jones] was his usual good self. All around the back four and Stef [Frei] were great, but this is a team game. When I looked at the first half, a lot of the guys were doing work higher up the field, Ozzie [Alonso] and Cristian [Roldan] did a good job of cleaning stuff up before it even got to the back four. We were getting on top of them a little bit. Clint [Dempsey] comes on and I think the game really turned in our favor, and the guys had a little less defending to do other than the counterattacks that Atlanta was coming at us with.”

On the shutout:

“Well [the defense] all played hard with the right amount of aggression, without getting themselves in trouble. I think positionally they were very sound. As individuals, they defended well, and also as a group they defended well. Again, like I said, it’s a credit to the back four and it’s a credit to Stef, but I thought the entire team played well defensively. I know Atlanta was missing their leading scorer, it is still a very potent team.”

On Clint Dempsey:

“Look, if we were ahead 3-0, we might have had a different mindset, but Clint was going to play. There was no question he was going to play.”

On what was missing in the match:

“Maybe the final pass, maybe just a little bit of luck. Clint comes in an his first touch was off the post or crossbar. We’ve got to do a better job of coaches to feel confident in front of goal. I think there were a few guys who might have been a little hesitant to pull the trigger – it’s something we can’t micromanage what they do because they are such talented guys, but we need to get a few more shots on target.”

SOUNDERS FC DEFENDER GUSTAV SVENSSON

On Marshall’s absence changing the game plan:

“Chad is a good player. He’s someone you can rely on in the back, so of course it was difficult for us to lose him, but Tony did a good job. I think we had a good game today defending, and a good game overall.”

On being the most experienced member of the back line:

“I didn’t really think about it. I try to do my part every game. I try to speak as much as I can. I try to be in charge. I like to try to control [the game] to help me and to help others. But maybe, I didn’t think about it.”

On Alfaro’s performance:

“He did a good job. They played pretty good. We played out of the back all of the time, so they made it difficult for us. We tried to keep the line, but he did a really good job. We had control, I think they had some chances at the end of the game, but they had more counter attacks than playing out of the back. So, overall he did a really good job, and we as a team did a good job as well.”

On the pace of the game and the opposition:

“They do [have some speedy players]. They played pretty good out of the back. We tried to come up to steal the ball. We did it a couple of times, maybe we should have hurt them more when we did it. That second half I think we pushed even harder and they got tired. Unfortunately we couldn’t score, but like I said, it was a good game.”

SOUNDERS FC DEFENDER TONY ALFARO

On finding out he was starting shortly before kickoff:

“It’s very unfortunate that Chad wasn’t feeling well. At the same time, I always come into every game preparing as if I’m going to play, and today I got that chance. I was just happy I could help the team get a shutout.”

On the pace of the match the first 25 minutes:

“They came out fired up. They were pressing us, they were preventing us from playing out of the back [which is] our style. But as the game [went on] we got more rhythm throughout the game.”

On the defensive performance with a makeshift back line:

“I think we did a good job as a team in general. Defensively, I think we got the job done. We didn’t let them score but it was a team effort.”

On whether playing 90 minutes in the friendly prepared him for tonight:

“It was good that I got to play 90 minutes [against Club Necaxa] and get into a game rhythm and game fitness, which is really what we need when we’re not playing any games. But today I felt good, I was glad I was able to play the full 90.”

On the chemistry among the defense:

“I think our team chemistry is great. All the guys get along well and I think we know each other’s tendencies. Even if it’s a last minute thing, like today, we can always improvise and get the job done.”

On whether he models his game after Marshall and Román Torres:

“Of course, I’m training with them every single day and I learn from them day to day. There are things they help me out [with], they give me advice, and I look at their game and the things they do well and those are the things I look at.”

SOUNDERS FC MIDFIELDER NICOLÁS LODEIRO (THROUGH TRANSLATOR)

On the match:

“It was a difficult and entertaining game. It was very hard, we both had a lot of opportunities. But it’s a bummer [because] we need to win our games at home.”

On why the match ended scoreless:

“It was just a desire to actually win [that was missing]. It was the anxiety of being in that situation that put pressure on us, and we were probably going too much to it. And as a result, we were not able to close the opportunities.”

On whether teams have been more physical with him this season:

“As I have been spending more time here, the other [MLS] teams know how I play. The other players know me better, and they know they need to go hard at me. I have to expect that I’ll have more people looking after me, so I just have to be smarter and quicker and to release the ball faster and be sure I’m not losing passes as an increased [defensive] mark.”

On what went well defensively:

“It is important to have a clean sheet. It’s important that we were able to achieve that today because we were not doing those things in previous games, so it’s an improvement and it’s one of the positives of the game. It gave us peace of mind so we could go and attack in multiple different fronts knowing that the defense was playing strong.”

ATLANTA UNITED FC HEAD COACH GERARDO “TATA” MARTINO (THROUGH TRANSLATOR)

On if he’s proud of the team’s result tonight:

“To tie on the road with the reigning champion is definitely a positive. In respect to the game, I thought we played well in the first half, but in the second half, Seattle kind of dominated us, with the exception of a couple counterattacks. They were the better team in the second half.”

On what he learned about his team by grinding out this result:

“When the games are difficult and competitive, we learned tonight that we can fight and we can be in these games. Something else we confirmed tonight because we already knew it from the first game against New York … against these top teams you have to fight for 93, 94 minutes. You have to be intense the whole game because against teams like Dallas, Seattle, New York, Portland, Houston, Toronto – you have to compete for 90-plus minutes.”

On the team’s players who were away with their national teams:

“For the three guys who played with their national teams, we had to think of it in terms of it being a really long season. To play them for more than we did tonight would have been a risk that we didn’t want to take.”

On Clint Dempsey:

“Dempsey is a player with a lot of quality. He played in the English Premier League for a number of years and whether he plays 90 minutes or less, he’s a difference maker on the field.”

On the atmosphere in Seattle:

“The atmosphere is wonderful here. I knew because we played here during Copa America against Bolivia and we know that the fans in Seattle are really passionate about soccer. You could see that tonight. The way that the fans support the team energizes the players.”

On how the team is shaping up so far:

“We work hard. We’re dedicated to forming a good team and I think we’re on a good path, but you have to keep in mind that the season just started.”

ATLANTA UNITED FC DEFENDER TYRONE MEARS

On how the team handled being in Seattle’s atmosphere:

“I spoke to the guys before. We know how important the fans are for Seattle. They are like the 12th man. We knew it was going to be difficult coming to the champions. We would have to dig in at some point. But we are happy with the performance and a clean sheet for the back four.

On playing in Seattle on the visiting team:

“It was strange. It was a little bit different. I know I was getting a few claps from the fans and that was nice. Yeah, strange because I have been with those guys for two seasons. Lots of very good friends.”

On the change of atmosphere when Dempsey came in:

“Yeah Dempsey, he is on fire at the minute. He is playing really, really well and it is nice to see because you know he had his problems last season, you know with his health. So it is nice to see that he is healthy and back playing well. Yeah he is a great player. I think when he comes on it helps Nico [Lodeiro] to get the ball more as well because normally if Clint’s not playing then we have two guys on Nico surrounding him. With Dempsey [in], you know space opens up then. It was difficult. They had a lot of possession but you know we stuck in and I think we deserve the draw in the end.”

On the team playing without a few starters against the defending champions:

“It says that we have a very good squad. A squad that can compete. You know, like you said, we were missing some fantastic players. Obviously Miguel [Almirón] and Carlos [Carmona] come in at the end but you know those guys are important for us. Joesf [Martinez], as well. He has been great scoring goals. He is a problem for the defenders. But the guys that have come in have done really well and we are going to need that. It is a long season and lots of travel.”

On the success of Atlanta at this early point in the season:

“I think the quality that has been brought in by the club. You know a lot of young exciting players, players from all over the world. And obviously the coach. The coach is massive. His reputation is massive. What he is doing for this team, his players – I’m learning soccer again. That is how good it is. It is really, really intense every day, and I’m enjoying it. And like I said, if we can continue, keep the squad as healthy as we can, then we will have a good season.”

On there were any hard feelings how he left Seattle:

“No not really. Not at all. I parted from Seattle. We spoke about it. They didn't take my option. A contract was offered. It wasn't a good one for me and I left. We shook hands. After the game I was speaking to their GM, owner, everybody. We are all friends. I can wish this club nothing but success in the future.”

ATLANTA UNITED FC DEFENDER GREG GARZA

On the intensity of this early season game:

“Yeah, yeah it was a tough atmosphere to play in. We are playing against the last season champions, so it was pretty exciting game for us to be an expansion team to come here. To get a point off of them, it feels good. We have three away games to think about now, but it is good to get that one over with and I think we will go home happy with a point.”

On coping with the atmosphere and what it says about Atlanta:

“Yeah, I think that coping with the atmosphere, we actually have that home as well, so you know 55,000 the first game, 45,000 the last home game and then you have probably about the same numbers here. So you know we deal with that at home as well to have the people push behind us, but here everything is the contrary but I think we fought through it as best as we could but like I said before I think we will be happy with a point.”

On having a large crowd in Atlanta helping you play well on the road:

“Yeah for sure. I think that every player on our team is used to that atmosphere at Bobby Dodd in Atlanta and that probably helps us get through tough games like this. Seattle is probably one of the most exciting places in the MLS to play. So I think for us to really battle though that 90 minutes plus was really fun for us and really exciting for us to go home with a point.

On playing four straight road games and what you will learn about your team:

“I think consistency. I think we are still building the best team we can. It was a big upset for us – you lose your main guy, Joseph Martinez, but I think Tito [Martino] did a wonderful job and the guys that came in also did a wonderful job building off that position. I think these next three games you have to stay focused, keep building on our chemistry, keep working as a group to get as many points as we can off these away games.