The Seattle Sounders prevailed in the much-hyped (hated?) matchup with 2018 MLS Cup champions Atlanta United 2-1. Both teams started about as much of a first choice lineup as they could, and it was certainly an entertaining affair. The game had a bit of everything, including winners and losers.
Raul Ruidiaz is really good
The Sounders had it rough over the past two months, with Ruidiaz out on international duty and Will Bruin going down with an unfortunate ACL injury. Justin Dhillon and Alfonso Ocampo-Campo Chavez acquitted themselves about as well as you could hope, but you can see the massive gulf in quality and experience at this point in their respective careers. Ruidiaz simply has the technical ability that the Sounders have been missing, with his skills on the ball and the runs he makes off it. And his goal in the 58th minute ... what can you say? Just a fantastic individual effort to volley the ball to himself and rocket it past Brad Guzan into the back of the net. With him on the field, the Sounders are a completely different team.
Harry Shipp continues strong play
Shipp had an up and down game (see below). However, you’ve got to put the player in who puts away the game-winner in the winners category. Shipp finished off a fantastic Jordan Morris cross with a header across goal, leaving Brad Guzan no chance. It was a moment of relief for Shipp and Sounders fans, after he left multiple chances begging in the first half.
Jordan Morris is a winger
Morris didn’t score, but he was generally very good in this game, breaking the Atlanta backline and tracking back on defense to help (which led in part to the game-winner). Also provided the assist on the game-winning goal to Shipp. All in all a very solid performance in his first game back after national team duty.
Substitutions come through
Holding on to a one-goal lead, Schmetzer’s substitutions worked out perfectly. Saad Abdul-Salaam replaced Kelvin Leerdam and immediately paid dividends with his height and fresh legs, while Nouhou won most of his duels and (wisely) went to the corner with the ball in the dying moments of the game, instead of attempting to take a shot on goal. Jordy Delem provided some steel in defense as well.
Finishing, especially the first half
It may be a little harsh, given that the Sounders scored two goals, but they could have put this game well away in the first half, had they had their finishing boots on. Ruidíaz missed a couple of fantastic chances early on in the half and Shipp created several chances for himself in the 20th, 21st and 32nd minutes, yet couldn’t put the ball on frame. After the game, he acknowledged he should have scored at least one.
Passing, especially early in the second half
Same as the finishing, some of the Sounders passing left a lot to be desired. Simple passes out of the back found their way to Atlanta midfielders, which led to several dangerous chances. The beginning of the second half was especially abject, and if not for an offside call, would have found the Sounders behind in the 50th minute when Atlanta’s Pity Martinez slotted the ball past Stefan Frei. Coach Brian Schmetzer lamented the inability of the midfield to control possession until Atlanta began to tire, and said that will be something to work on as the team moves forward.
Nothing about this game is going to suddenly turn neutrals into fans, but that was a fun soccer match. Both teams used strong squads and generated plenty of chances. It was a match befitting its place on national TV, something their previous encounter mostly certainly was not.