SEATTLE – The Seattle Sounders hosted Atlanta United on Sunday night as smoke from wild fires in the region filled the sky at Lumen Field. On a night when Garth Lagerwey and Gonzalo Pineda were recognized for their roles with the Sounders organization, and Ozzie Alonso helped honor Stefan Frei for passing his own record for appearances with the club in the MLS era, Atlanta went home 2-0 victors claiming their first win at Lumen Field.
Seattle came out of the gate looking pretty dangerous, creating a good chance in the 1st minute and putting together another look in the 8th minute, but execution and decision-making let them down in the final moments. That proved to be a recurring theme for the Sounders in the first half as they put together a handful of chances, but went into halftime lucky to only be down 1-0. Atlanta's breakthrough came in the 11th minute when Georgios Giakoumakis headed home a Brooks Lennon corner, barely even needing to jump to beat Nouhou to the ball. Atlanta continued to slice through the Sounders defense, with Seattle looking particularly vulnerable in transition, as they racked up 70% possession on the road.
The Sounders looked better to start the second half, but it was once again Atlanta that found the back of the net in the 65th minute. Giakoumakis once again found himself hardly challenged by Nouhou as he ghosted in at the back post to head home a Thiago Almada cross. Seattle did generate enough dangerous moments to get back into the game, but were too predictable lacked the clinical touch necessary to make any of that matter. The game ended 2-0, a result that felt both harsh and fortunate given everything that lead to it. Seattle hit the road next week, taking on Minnesota United at Allianz Field next Sunday.
1' – Jordan Morris gets around Caleb Wiley down the right wing and sends in a cross that's headed clear, but Nico Lodeiro gets off a shot that goes wide.
8' – Seattle works the ball through the midfield to spring Léo Chú down the right side. Chú opts to shoot rather than play in Jordan Morris, but his shot is caught.
11' – Atlanta open the scoring on a header from Georgios Giakoumakis, who easily wins the ball over Nouhou on a corner. 1-0 Atlanta
15' – Atlanta have a good chance to add another as they work through Seattle's press and Giakoumakis takes a shot from near the penalty spot, but mishits it.
35' – Morris runs down a loose pass in Atlanta's defense and plays a ball across for Raúl Ruidíaz but it's too close to Brad Guzan who denies the service.
36' – Down at the other end Stefan Frei comes up with a huge save to keep Atlanta from doubling their lead.
45' +5 – Albert Rusnák works his way into the box and takes a shot that's deflected and nearly beats Guzan, but it goes just over the bar for a corner.
48' – Yeimar gets up and heads a Nico Lodeiro corner, putting the effort on goal but it's right at Guzan who catches the ball easily.
54' – Ruidíaz has a rip from near the top of the box after a layoff from Alex Roldan, but his shot flies over the goal.
58' – Rusnák has a look on the half-volley off of a corner, but his shot from the top of the box swings wide right.
65' – Giakoumakis gets his second, making a completely unmarked run to the back post and heading home to beat Stefan Frei. 2-0 Atlanta
71' – Fredy Montero pounces on a back pass, but his shot is hooked just wide of the post.
Fading lights: Maybe this is premature or overly harsh, but while there have been brief moments from both it's seemed throughout this season like both Nico Lodeiro and Raúl Ruidíaz's light just doesn't shine as bright as it used to. They're still trying to do the same things that have made them all-time greats for the club, but through time or injury or some secret third thing the ability to create that alchemy has left them. One of the iconic Ruidíaz goals came against Atlanta in this building four years ago, but it seems impossible that the 2023 version of the striker could sombrero Miles Robinson and beat the GK in a balletic sequence destined for a highlight reel. I hope this read is wrong, and I'm just an idiot sitting at a keyboard, but it's up to the Sounders' most important players to make that so.
Still plenty to fix: One game is far from enough to draw any meaningful conclusions. Least of all a game played without hydration breaks or seemingly any other precautions taken despite AQIs that are considered unhealthy in prolonged exposure. That said, Seattle showed a number of areas that they'll need to focus on in training this week and over the final stretch of the season. The team continued to struggle to stay engaged when out of possession, particularly when Atlanta got out in transition. The set-pieces, when both attacking and defending, were more cause for concern than anything else. Attacking movement was decent, even impressive at times, but in crucial moments there was too much thinking and indecision when an instinctive play could have proved the difference. Maybe some of that is rust. Maybe the long break allowed them to develop some resiliency and they'll bounce back from this one when they head to Minnesota next week. All I know is that there's work to be done.
Let the kids run around: The Sounders made a total of four substitutions, introducing all of Reed Baker-Whiting, Fredy Montero, Paul Rothrock, and Obed Vargas within a span of five minutes in the second half. As the team attempted to climb out of a 2-0 deficit, they turned (for the most part) to the youth on the bench as Rothrock made his first appearance since signing his First Team contract. They didn't necessarily change the game, but with Brian Schmetzer mentioning lineup changes as a possible means of righting the ship in his post-game press conference we could see a lot more of the youngest members of the team over the final nine games of the regular season.
He said what?!?
One stat to tell the tale
5 – The Sounders are now winless in their last five games in all competitions.