The Seattle Sounders will travel to the East Coast on Saturday afternoon to face Atlanta United. Both teams are desperate for points in their search for solidifying/earning a playoff position. Here are five things to know about the match (noon, ABC):
Former Sounders midfielder and assistant coach Gonzalo Pineda made headlines last summer when he left the club to join Atlanta United halfway through the season. It has been a year of ups and downs for Gonzo and his team (mostly downs), but he will no doubt want to make a statement against his former team on Saturday. Another familiar face we may see in the stands is former midfielder Ozzie Alonso. While he won’t play in the match due to a torn ACL he suffered earlier in the season, he very well might attend the match to visit old teammates and current.
Ruidiaz is no longer on the injury report
As expected following his ~25 minute cameo against FC Dallas on Tuesday night, striker Raul Ruidiaz will be fully available for selection against Atlanta United. In the previous injury report, he was listed as questionable with a lingering hamstring injury, but that is hopefully behind him now. The Sounders record with Ruidíaz vs. without is staggering, so he will undoubtably play a big role in their hope of bringing all three points back to Seattle.
Sounders are in a playoff position — for now
The Western Conference is more congested than I've ever seen it before. Five points are all that separate 3rd from 9th and that trend is unlikely to change as we inch closer and closer to Decision Day. Picking up hard-fought points away from home will inevitably be the difference between finishing the season above or below the line. Three points with favorable results elsewhere could push the Sounders as high as 3rd to end the match week. Zero points could see them fall as low as 9th.
The Sounders have rolled out pretty close to their best teams available against both LAFC and FC Dallas. Multiple players have played upwards of 180 minutes in the past week already, so it wouldn’t be surprising to see some of them start on the bench. Schmetzer has recently utilized a back-5 formation on the road when he sees fit, so we think that may be the case on Saturday against an Atlanta United team that has been experimenting with the same idea in recent weeks.
Atlanta United are not a very good team
The fast-paced MLS Cup winning Atlanta United team of 2018 is gone. A series of bad investments along with unfortunate injury struggles has left the team depleted and desperate for points. With 22 games played and 12 to go, Atlanta sit 12th in the East. Luckily for them, joining the playoff race in the East is still a very real possibility. It’s nearly as congested as the West, with 5 points separating 5th from 12th.