Whenever the Seattle Sounders play against Atlanta United it will be billed as a marquee matchup, regardless of where the teams are at in reality. It’s why the match on Sunday is on big FOX. Make no mistake about it, this is not a matchup between two good teams. It’s a match featuring the best team in MLS and a team struggling to find its identity. Here’s what we’d like to see when Seattle plays Atlanta.
Play to the crowd
This isn’t the first match with fans back at Lumen Field but it will be the first match since before the pandemic that the Brougham End will be packed with ECS faithful. It’s a beautiful thing, nature is healing, etc. etc. There should be a few thousand extra fans in other parts of the stadium as well and capacity is expected to be about double of what it was the first three home games. We know how much the Sounders love playing in front of their fans and I think that’s wonderful. It’s a reminder we’re on the way to normalcy.
Force Atlanta out wide
Atlanta is an interesting team. I mean, mostly on the pitch they’re insanely boring, but I find that really fascinating. They’re of course in year 3 of rebuilding their 2018 MLS Cup-winning team with new head coach Gabriel Heinze. He still hasn’t figured out their best team, and they have a lot of injuries. One thing that frustrates the current lineup is forcing them out wide when they’re in possession. Josef Martinez is obviously a good soccer player so making sure he doesn’t get the ball is important.
Kill Soccer, again
Do you remember where you were on July 15, 2018? It’s the day that’ll forever live in infamy. The Sounders went on the road to take on the best team to ever grace the pitch, Atlanta United, in front of a national TV audience fresh off watching the World Cup final. Obviously, this meant the entire world was tuned in and watching an MLS match. These teams had the duty of entertaining the world. The Sounders had the audacity to be on the verge of watching their season spiral out of control, come into the game with a shortened roster, had to play Jordan McCrary at right back and ended up killing soccer with their horrendous tactics.
Well, that’s what Atlanta United fans think, anyways (and, yes, they still talk about this).
Through another lens, the Sounders sat back because they were playing on the road against a team that was legitimately much better than them at the time. On Sunday, the Sounders get the pleasure of hosting an Atlanta team that’s in a similar state as to where Seattle was in 2018: A good team with a lot of injuries. Atlanta probably won’t go on a 12-game unbeaten run this year (something that 2018 game helped spark for the Sounders), but they’d be wise to employ similar tactics in this match. They probably won’t because their coach is a low-key maniac. But we’ll see.
The Alex Roldan Show
Putting my hand up here to say I didn’t think Alex Roldan was going to be good, let alone this good. I thought the Sounders would need to target a right back in the summer transfer window to replace their weakest link. Well, A. Roldan is not the Sounders’ weakest link. There’s probably a more compelling argument that he’s the best right back in the league than one needing an upgrade. That’s why I just blog about soccer instead of being a coach or a GM.
A. Roldan has proved to be a solid defender and a player that can provide a really beautiful final ball. Let’s see more of that on Sunday.
Josh Atencio deserves to start
Atencio missed the last four matches because of an injury. Kelyn Rowe has mostly taken his spot in the starting lineup and has done really well. I don’t think Rowe deserves to be dropped from the team but I do think we sorta forgot how good Atencio was playing before his injury. Atencio was everywhere defensively, covered a ton of ground and even showcased an impressive ability to break lines with his passing. Assuming he’s fully fit, I think Atencio deserves a start against Atlanta United because his playing style suits how I think the match will go. However, I think Rowe — or even Danny Leyva — will probably end up starting. We’ll see!