SEATTLE, Wash. (March 31, 2017) — Atlanta United battled defending MLS Cup champion Seattle Sounders FC to a scoreless draw on Friday night at CenturyLink Field. With three new players in the starting lineup, Atlanta was able to hold Seattle to just one shot on target on its home field, the fewest since May 23, 2015. The draw moved Atlanta into a tie for first place in the Eastern Conference, where they lead on goal differential.
“A draw on the road against the reigning champion is a result that we view as a positive,” Atlanta United head coach Tata Martino said. “In respect to the game, I think we did very well in the first half, and in the second half Seattle dominated us more, although we had two very good counter-attacks.”
An even match throughout, Atlanta had the better of scoring chances, particularly late with two opportunities in the final 10 minutes of the match. In the 87th minute, Julian Gressel found Miguel Almiron near the top of the 18-yard box. Almiron directed a left-footed attempt on goal, but Seattle goalkeeper Stefan Frei was able to make the save. In second half stoppage time, Gressel again found an open Kenwyne Jones inside of the box, but Jones’ attempt was blocked by a diving Cristian Roldan.
The first half finished scoreless with Atlanta holding a 7-4 shot advantage. Atlanta had three quality chances, starting in the 12th minute with Tito Villalba nearly sneaking a ball past a charging Stefan Frei. Yamil Asad perfectly played Villalba through from the midfield line, but Frei was able to get his right hand on Villalba’s attempted pass by the goalkeeper.
Minutes later, Julian Gressel found his way through three Seattle defenders in the 16th minute to get a shot on target. He finally collected a loose ball inside of the box and drove a low shot, forcing Frei to make a diving save to his right. Then in the 27th minute, Jeff Larentowicz’s diving header off of a corner kick from Chris McCann just went over the bar.
For Seattle, Clint Dempsey entered in the 53rd minute and provided the Sounders’ best chance of the match minutes later. A free kick from the left sideline was perfectly sent into the box, where Dempsey was able to head one off the woodwork.
Atlanta made three changes to the lineup including forward Josef Martinez, who was diagnosed with a quad injury earlier in the week. Midfielders Miguel Almiron and Carlos Carmona – who both entered in the second half – were held out of the starting lineup after returning from international duty on Wednesday.
“For any of the three players that went with their national teams, we’re thinking the season is very long, they had a long trip and just arrived yesterday,” Martino said. “Starting them was an unnecessary risk.”
Atlanta returns to action Saturday, April 8, when the club travels to play Toronto FC – the second of four consecutive road matches. The match is scheduled to kick-off at 7:30 p.m. EST.