With four key players unavailable to start, Atlanta United went on the road Friday night and earned a draw against the defending MLS Cup champion Seattle Sounders. Both teams had a chance to win the game, U.S. national team star Clint Dempsey’s header clanged off the Atlanta goal post while Miguel Almiron and Kenwyne Jones had quality looks at goals in the last 10 minutes for the Five Stripes. The United back line pulled off its second consecutive draw and has not allowed a goal in the last 240 minutes of action.
Seattle has not lost at CenturyLink Field since last summer, going unbeaten in its last 13 matches at home. The Sounders had to make a late change to their starting lineup as Chad Marshall was pulled due to illness. With two new starters in the mix, they were able to keep the powerful Atlanta lineup off the scoreboard.
With Josef Martinez out for 4-6 weeks due to a left quad injury, Tito Villalba started at forward and Jacob Peterson replaced Villalba on the right wing. Chris McCann also replaced Miguel Almiron in the starting lineup with the Paraguayan rested after two games with his national team earlier in the week.
Leandro Gonzalez Pirez was the star for the Five Stripes, earning the Heineken Man of the Match award. He led the team in clearances, shut down U.S. national team striker Jordan Morris, and even stepped forward into the attack on multiple occasions. The 25-year-old Argentine is proving to be among the best in MLS with a strong start to his career in Atlanta.
Atlanta United manager Tata Martino on how the team felt after the match:
“A draw on the road against the reigning champion is a result that we view as a positive. In respect to the game, I think we did very well in the first half, and in the second half Seattle dominated us more. And although we had two very good counter-attacks, they played better in the second half.”
Atlanta United right back Tyrone Mears on the team’s success:
“I think the quality that has been brought in by the club. You know a lot of young exciting players, players from all over the world. And obviously the coach. The coach is massive. His reputation is massive. What he is doing for this team, his players – I’m learning soccer again. That is how good it is. It is really, really intense every day, and I’m enjoying it. And like I said, if we can continue, keep the squad as healthy as we can, then we will have a good season.”
Atlanta United left back Greg Garza on the game’s intensity:
“Yeah, yeah it was a tough atmosphere to play in. We are playing against the last season champions, so it was pretty exciting game for us to be an expansion team to come here. To get a point off of them, it feels good. We have three away games to think about now, but it is good to get that one over with and I think we will go home happy with a point.”
- Rookie Julian Gressel picked up an early yellow card after a dangerous tackle. In the preseason against Seattle, Gressel earned a second yellow card very quickly and was sent off. On Friday, he showed his maturity and stayed out of trouble for the rest of the match. Gressel created both of Atlanta’s best chances in the match late in the second half.
- Jeff Larentowicz started in place of Carlos Carmona, who was away with the Chilean national team for the last week. The veteran MLS midfielder put in a great performance. He completed 86.5 percent of his passes and broke up many Seattle attacks.
- Seattle’s Cristian Roldan put on an incredible performance for the home team. He seemingly popped up all over the field. He had some of the Sounders’ best chances on the attacking end, but he also had the key defensive play when his lunging block denied Kenwyne Jones late in the match.