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Five Things we noticed from Sounders v. Atlanta United

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It was good to have the Brougham End full again.

Max Aquino / Sounder at Heart

SEATTLE — Playing in front of a broadcast TV audience, the Seattle Sounders and Atlanta United didn’t quite put on the show many had hoped.

While the Sounders got an early lead thanks to a Raul Ruidiaz header off of an expertly delivered corner kick from João Paulo, they were largely ineffective from the run of play. And when Brad Smith conceded a late penalty on a rash challenge in the box, Josef Martinez converted the spot kick to give Atlanta an unlikely point on the road. So the Sounders will head into their final match before the June break against Austin FC on a little bit of a downer, though they are still well in front in the Western Conference and Supporters’ Shield race.

Supporters’ section returns in full voice

Though the Sounders didn’t give them a whole lot to cheer about for large stretches of the game, the first full supporters’ section was on hand to watch the Sounders for the first time since March 7, 2020. The enthusiasm was palpable, no more so than when the teams made their way out before first kick awash in the “Boom, Boom, Clap.” And when Ruidiaz knocked in a header to give the Sounders the lead in the 7the minute, it seemed like the good ol’ days were here again. The Sounders were treated to the first tifo in over a year as well with a message to fit the occasion: “Meant to be together.”

Nouhou has another standout performance

Of all of the Sounders to take advantage of the shift in formation, no one has grabbed the bull more by the horns than Nouhou, whose performance this year has to have him in the conversation for Defensive Player of the Year. The Cameroon international (who received a well-deserved call-up) was probably the man of the match, locking down his side of the field with his characteristic flair. Nouhou also displayed a bit of maturity, after picking up an early yellow card in the 31st minute, playing the remainder of the game with no issues. Nouhou’s offense may forever be a work in progress, but defensively he is at the top of his game.

Undefeated streak goes on

By any measure, a 5-0-2 start to the season has to be considered a massive success. It does raise expectations of course, and dropping points at home is rarely a good thing. Still, the Sounders have opened up a small cushion early this season thanks to their start, which will help them navigate a summer that could see them lose a number of players to international duty. A win next week against expansion side Austin FC would wipe the bad taste of the Atlanta result, and set them up with 20 points going into the international break. Under the circumstances, any fan would have taken that if offered at the beginning of the year.

Still invincible from open play

It’s not a statistic that has any real meaning, but the Sounders continued their impressive streak of not conceding a goal from open play with Atlanta’s only goal coming off a penalty. And with only three goals conceded all year, the Sounders defense is playing at a level rarely seen in MLS. Head coach Brian Schmetzer was asked previously if the Sounders were an “elite” defense. While Schmetzer demurred and preferred to describe them as “effective,” the numbers don’t lie.

Learning lessons

Sometimes it doesn’t hurt to take one on the chin. While the Sounders didn’t lose this matchup, there were certainly some things they could take away from the game, particularly the performance in the second half, which was arguably the first time all year where the Sounders didn’t improve coming out of the halftime break. Midfielder Cristian Roldan gave Atlanta credit for the pressure they applied in pinning the Sounders back, which didn’t allow their wingbacks to influence the game as they had in previous games. This seemed like the first game where the Sounders truly missed the influence and playmaking of Nicolas Lodeiro, and they’ll hope to have their talisman back when they return from the international break at the end of June.