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Sounders at Atlanta, recap: A late Gut(man) punch

Sounders fall 2-1 on late Atlanta golazo.

MLS: Seattle Sounders FC at Atlanta United FC Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports

The Seattle Sounders dropped a late result on the road against Atlanta United in a Saturday matinee show. With a point in their grasp going into stoppage time, a 94th minute goal sent Seattle home with a 2-1 loss.

Atlanta took a lead in the 23rd minute when a series of defensive breakdowns left Ronaldo Cisneros with plenty of space to hit his shot inside the Sounders' 18-yard box. His shot took a deflection as Nouhou attempted to block it, leaving Stefan Frei with no chance of denying the goal.

The Sounders pushed for an equalizer throughout the rest of the first half and created the better chances of the two sides in the second half, finally getting their payoff with a well-worked goal in the 68th. Clever movement and passing from Nico Lodeiro and Albert Rusnák set up a good run down the left side from Nouhou, who then put in a hard, low cross towards Raúl Ruidíaz at the near post. Ruidíaz got a touch on it and the ball bounced towards Cristian Roldan, who took a touch to create space and slotted the ball home.

Roldan’s goal seemed to spur the team on as they looked likely to come home with at least a point and a fresh and shiny two-game unbeaten run in the works. Seattle kept pushing for a winner, managing six shots between the 75th and 90th minute, but a golazo from Atlanta’s Andrew Gutman deep into stoppage time spoiled the afternoon for the Sounders.

The result leaves Seattle still searching for their footing heading into the season’s home stretch. The team has just over a week until their next game, hosting Real Salt Lake on Sunday, Aug. 14, but Jordan Morris and Ruidíaz will both miss out on the opportunity to recover and train with the team as they head to Minnesota to participate in the MLS All-Star Game on Wednesday.

Key moments

12’ — Albert Rusnák steps up to receive a pass from Cristian Roldan, takes a touch and has a shot from the top of Atlanta’s 18, but it’s deflected out for a corner.

23’ — Atlanta take the lead a shot from Ronaldo Cisneros is deflected off of Nouhou, leaving Stefan Frei with no chance of saving it. 1-0 Atlanta

32’ — Jordan Morris nearly ties the game with a diving header on an excellent ball from Alex Roldan, but Rocco Rios Novo gets down to save it off of the near post.

48’ — The Sounders get a dangerous attack going with Will Bruin taking some smooth touches at the top of Atlanta’s box, but his attempt to play a teammate through is cut out.

53’ — Frei makes an excellent kick save to keep Atlanta from adding to the lead, sending Luis Araujo’s shot across the face of goal.

68’ — Rusnák and Nico Lodeiro combine to play Nouhou down the wing and Nouhou puts a low cross into the box. Cristian Roldan calmly finishes after a touch from Raúl Ruidíaz. 1-1

76’ — Ruidíaz nearly pulls off the spectacular, pulling up from the top of the box, but the GK is able to swat the ball away from the top corner.

84’ — Josef Martinez gets in through the defense, poised for a 1-v-1 with Frei, but Alex Roldan is able to intervene and knock the ball back to the ‘keeper.

90’ +4 — Andrew Gutman rips a shot from 20 yards out as Alex Roldan steps to close him down, but the shot is hit hard and well-placed and beats Frei to the far side of goal. 2-1

Quick thoughts

Raúl Ruidíaz makes the team better: Forgive me for saying the most obvious thing I could possibly say about the Sounders, but they are a much better team with Ruidíaz on the field. Coming into this game his average goals + assists per 90 minutes was a little over 3x the combined g+a/90 for Fredy Montero and Will Bruin. Even if he’s not directly contributing to goals, his presence on the field has a huge gravitational pull as he forces opposing defenses to be constantly concerned with where he is on the field. It won’t go on the stat sheet, but his touch on Nouhou’s cross made Roldan’s goal possible. It may take some time for him to shake off the rust, but he’s already making the team more dangerous by simply being there.

Team defense, where did you go? It was just a few days ago that head coach Brian Schmetzer was crediting the whole team’s defense for securing a 1-0 home win against FC Dallas. Against Atlanta there were certainly moments of solid team defense, to be sure, but there was also another instance of seemingly the entire team falling asleep at one point or another on the opening goal. Multiple players dropped off their marks or lagged in tracking runners, ultimately leaving Cisneros with time and space to find the breakthrough. Credit to Gutman on a well-hit winner, but even that could have at least been made more difficult by a quicker step from Alex Roldan or better rotation from the midfield. I don’t have a solution, but the same kinds of defensive errors have been an issue just about all season in league play.

Helping out a friend: OK, this result sucks. I’m not going to pretend it doesn't. But maybe there’s a positive spin to this result. I know what you’re saying, “I don’t want to hear a positive spin on another Sounders loss,” and I agree, but what if this is all part of a bigger picture? Gonzalo Pineda has been under substantial criticism because his Atlanta side has been objectively bad for much of this season. The Atlanta United front office has undergone significant change, and now there are rumors floating around that Garth Lagerwey is a possible candidate for their GM/President role. Maybe this win quells some of the concern around Pineda, and the appearance of promise and solidity causes Atlanta to go in a different direction in their search for the top spot in the organization. Maybe we lost this battle, but it’s part of winning the war? I don’t know, man, I’m just trying to not get too bummed out.

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One stat to tell the tale

12 — Seattle’s 12 losses this season would tie for the 3rd most in a season since joining MLS, having only lost more in 2015 (13 losses) and 2016 (14 losses) with 10 games left to play.


Poll

Man of the match

  • 70%
    Cristian Roldan
    (183 votes)
  • 5%
    Nico Lodeiro
    (13 votes)
  • 3%
    Alex Roldan
    (10 votes)
  • 20%
    Albert Rusnák
    (53 votes)
259 votes total Vote Now

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